The first day of practice in Jeddah did not live up to Mercedes’ expectations that their W14 may become more competitive once the Formula 1 grid left the Bahrain International Circuit.
The team’s fastest car, piloted by George Russell, finished second practice over half a second behind Max Verstappen’s pole-position Red Bull on a track with fewer slow corners and a less abrasive surface than Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton, who raced alongside Russell and ended outside the top 10, lapped the track almost a full second slower than the reigning world champion. When asked if the team’s W14 was an upgrade over the vehicle from the previous year, Hamilton said, the car was pretty much the same.
“It’s pretty much the same… I definitely struggled in the session… I struggled in both sessions,” the seven-time world champion said.
“We’ll just continue to go into the details, try to improve the balance of the car, make it easier to drive,” he added. “It’s a tough car to drive but I know everyone’s working so hard at the factory so it’s just a matter of time just having to be patient.”
Russell used the new components Mercedes provided for this weekend’s race, although Russell claimed that these were merely modest upgrades.
“There’s small changes for this weekend but it’s probably closer to what we had in Bahrain compared to what we want to see in the future,” Russell said. “We had some test items on the car for FP2 on my side.”
“But again, these are just small things in the short term. To do it right, it takes a bit more time.”
In his opinion, Red Bull will be in the lead this weekend and will not be comparable to with Mercedes in terms of performance.
“We’re not going to find a second overnight, as much as I’d love to do that and all of the hard work everybody’s putting in,” he added.
“We need to just continue to understand and recognise [that] the sort of new direction we’re taking as a team [is] the correct one.”
“That’s for the guys and girls back at the factory, everybody here to unpick the data… But for me this weekend and sort of a small group of engineers, you just go out there and try and maximise what you’ve got.”