Lewis Hamilton was looking on course to finish fifth in the Bahrain Grand Prix – that was until the Red Bulls suffered issues that led to both retiring with less than five laps to go, promoting Hamilton into what was an unlikely 183rd career podium.
Hamilton made no bones ahead of the race about Mercedes’ struggles, saying pointedly that he expected the Ferraris and Red Bulls to clear off into the distance on Sunday evening.
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And while Hamilton’s prognosis proved mostly true – Sergio Perez having made short work of passing the Mercedes early on, as the Silver Arrows struggled to keep up with their red and blue rivals – Hamilton used a late Safety Car and the double Red Bull retirement to his advantage to take P3, behind the Ferrari duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, and one place ahead of new team mate George Russell.
“Oh, for sure, we would not have expected [to get a podium],” said Hamilton. “I woke up this morning hoping, super, super hoping that we would have a chance to fight, that we would have a car that’s better than we think. But we did struggle in the race.
“But George did a great job to get us third and fourth [which] I think is pretty remarkable given the problems that we have.”
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The record books will show that Hamilton finished less than 10s adrift of race winner Leclerc. But with the aforementioned Safety Car having allowed the Mercedes duo to close up to the front of the pack, Hamilton wasn’t kidding himself that the Silver Arrows had resolved their issues – with the 103-time polesitter having qualified nearly seven-tenths off Leclerc on Saturday in P5.
“The thing is with our car, we have a car that’s bouncing a lot everywhere,” said Hamilton. “It’s not just in a straight line. We have very poor rear end through all the low-speed corners and all the medium-speed corners.
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“The only place that is generally quite good is, relatively, in the high [speed corners] and then we are very slow in the straight line. So, I don’t know if it’s drag or if it’s power, we haven’t figured that out yet.
“The others, we cannot keep up with them, even with the DRS. We do have a lot of work, and what that means is that you are just sliding a lot on the rear, and the tyres just get hotter and hotter and they degrade. So that’s where we’ve got a lot of [performance] to try and catch up on.”
Hamilton will get a chance to see how the W13 gets on around the undulating Jeddah Corniche Circuit next weekend, as Formula 1 heads for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
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