Lewis Hamilton says the world champions are “not quick enough” after Formula One’s pre-season test session in Bahrain.

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton admits Mercedes is on the back foot after the final day of pre-season testing in Bahrain, while Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren team is seemingly on track for a strong 2021.

With less than a fortnight remaining before the opening race of the season, Hamilton was only able to manage the fifth fastest time, as Red Bull and Max Verstappen set the pace.

It’s resulted in renewed hope that Mercedes may at last face a significant challenge after seven years of domination.

Asked to pinpoint where the issue lay, Hamilton’s answer was revealing, indicating there’s unlikely to be a quick fix.

Lewis Hamilton spins during pre-season testing in Bahrain.

“Probably everywhere. I wouldn’t call it a struggle necessarily, just not quick enough,” he replied. “Just seems globally through the lap; there’s not one particular point more than the other.

“[I’m] thankful it’s over because I’ve just never been a massive fan of testing, I just love racing, but on the other hand it might have been good to have more days. It’s probably the only time I would have ever asked for more days. But yeah, lots of work to do, it’s going to be tough.”

Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, admitted on the weekend that the car wasn’t to his liking, despite setting the fastest time on day two.

“I would say that one of the big issues with the car is the rear end,” Bottas said.

“It’s quite snappy and it’s quite unforgiving and that, topped up with the new tyres that feels quite sensitive to the sliding – it’s not that easy. We’re trying to calm the car down a bit and that way trying to get some more pace.”

Daniel Ricciardo in action for McLaren during the Bahrain test.

World titles, however, aren’t handed out in March, otherwise Ferrari would likely have been the dominant team of the last decade. In 2018, for example, the Scuderia were more than half a second clear of their rivals during testing, only for Mercedes and Hamilton to comfortably win the respective championships.

Mercedes’ director of trackside engineering, Andrew Shovlin, said the team was particularly concerned by its lack of long-run pace compared to Red Bull.

He acknowledged it’s not the first time Mercedes has been behind its rivals in pre-season testing, but noted this year was different, given the short turnaround before the first race.

Daniel Ricciardo (right) with McLaren teammate Lando Norris.

One figure that will be causing concern in the Mercedes camp is the total laps completed over the three days, with Hamilton and Bottas at the bottom of the list, with a combined 304 laps.

Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren team enjoyed a solid three days, with the general consensus pointing to the fact they had the third fastest car, especially in qualifying trim, behind only Red Bull and Mercedes.

“[McLaren] really are sitting pretty,” Sky Sports commentator Ted Kravitz said.

“They don’t imagine they’re faster than Red Bull or Mercedes, but they think they’re closer – much closer – than previous seasons.”

While Ricciardo’s day-three time was more than a second off Verstappen’s pace, the Australian’s time was set on harder compound tyres, indicating there’s more pace to come.

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