Mercedes' Disastrous Start - The Full Story
The uncharacteristic start to the pre-season test is Mercedes' worst opening day for testing since 2014.
This time last year, the Mercedes W11 clocked in more than 800km of running in the first day of the 2020 test alone, but today the W12 was confined to the lowest track-time of any team.
The German outfit only just passed the 250km mark today, making this the team's second worst start to testing since the turbo hybrid era, the worst being opening day in 2014 - that day was topped off with then one-time champion Hamilton touring the Jerez Circuit just 18 times and finishing minus a front wing and in a tyre wall.
Top rivals Red Bull picked up from where they finished last year, clocking in 139 laps or more than 750km of running. Bottas was able to complete a solitary lap before being forced to pit for a gearbox change which wiped out most of their AM session running.
But it wasn't the only issue that the team had, there were complaints from Hamilton of loose and mis-angled mirrors and pedal issues and a severe lack of grip in the Brit's running exasperated by a sandstorm that hit the track.
Valtteri Bottas was the driver who suffered the most from the issues, completing a measly 6 laps. (Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1)
To demonstrate the stinging nature of this lost time, AlphaTauri, Alpine, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, McLaren and of course Red Bull all completed around or in excess of 250km of the Bahrain International Circuit as the Mercedes car lay stationary in the pits.
By the time the car was released back onto the track, they were a full Bahrain Grand Prix-distance behind trendsetters AlphaTauri who posted just over 60 laps, and Bottas was tasked with systems checks and sensor calibrations. Pierre Gasly himself completed more laps (74) than both Mercedes drivers completed combined (48).
Red Bull had no such issues, and their reliability as well as the mostly-stable platform that they have to work on will certainly please Christian Horner and the team's higherups.
Mercedes opted to split all three days between their drivers instead of giving both drivers one full day and half of the final third day, meaning this debacle compounded Valtteri Bottas' woes even more, with essentially 1/3 of his running reduced to dust.
Such is the truncated nature of this year's pre-season test, that this lost time is even more valuable, as it will be much harder for the team to make up the lost track-time in two days as opposed to the six days of testing last year. The testing programmes that they would have planned are going to need a bit of TLC and some decisions will likely need to made over what programmes to ditch over the next two days to allow for collection of the most valuable data.
Hamilton sails his W12 through the sand-laden track (Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1)
Given how well the team seem to find their way around issues, its still a less-than-preferred setback for both team and drivers. The team doesn't have even remotely close to the data that Red Bull or even Williams would have collected today and the drivers, particularly Valtteri Bottas will enter the first race at Bahrain in 12 days time less comfortable and less prepared.
In years past, Mercedes has lost half-days and other significant track-time before, as recent as last year even, when Hamilton's Mercedes decided to stop working due to a power unit issue; even with that setback, the team was still clear at the top of the mileage leaderboard.
Given the reduced testing period it is going to be difficult for Mercedes to top the leaderboards this time round, but taking its track-record of resilience and bouncing-back, I wouldn't count them out on doing so.