Formula One defending world champion team Mercedes has appealed to its carmaker parent Daimler to stave off a threat posed by 2016 title rival Ferrari.
In Australia two weeks ago, both silver cars were beaten off the grid by the Ferraris, after the Maranello team proved to have best mastered the new rules limiting drivers to the use of a single clutch lever for race starts.
Now, Mercedes has qualified first and second in Bahrain but the team is again worried that Ferrari will simply leap ahead.
“Ideally, we’ll do the same thing on the start as we did two weeks ago,” smiled Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who is third on the grid but led early in Melbourne. “I wouldn’t mind!”
Acknowledging that Ferrari has the upper hand, Mercedes is reaching out for help.
“Daimler is making a new clutch for us,” team boss Toto Wolff told Germany’s Auto Bild. “We have asked the research department for help.”
“We don’t know exactly when it will be ready,” he added, referring to “weeks or months”.
Pole sitter Lewis Hamilton said in Bahrain that Mercedes has been working on improving what it already has since Australia, but admitted he “highly doubts” the situation will be much different compared to two weeks ago.
Mercedes, however, is not alone in having a key area to work on at the start of the 2016 season, amid paddock rumours Ferrari is struggling with its new turbo.
Asked if there is a fundamental problem, Kimi Raikkonen – who retired in Australia with a fiery airbox – told the Finnish broadcaster MTV in Bahrain: “Well, at the last race there was.”
It is believed that until the problem is resolved, Ferrari is not able to turn its ‘power units’ up to full power, especially in qualifying.
“But qualifying and the race are entirely different things,” Raikkonen said, referring to the half-second gap between Mercedes and Ferrari on Saturday.
“We know that we are always closer to them in the race,” he added.