Mercedes F1's step forward helped by Bahrain 'sting'

Mercedes says the ‘sting’ of not being fastest at the Formula 1 season opener helped galvanise the team to turn things around for this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

While Red Bull had the fastest car in Bahrain, Mercedes appears to have the edge at Imola with Valtteri Bottas quickest in both Friday practice sessions.

Mercedes technical director James Allison said the team had not taken what happened in Bahrain lightly, even though an aggressive strategy and great defensive driving from Lewis Hamilton helped it win.

Reflecting on the work done over the past three weeks, Allison said: "I think it is human nature that when you get stung, you leap around a bit more intensely than you might otherwise.

"We certainly love the race and we love the fight, but we don't enjoy feeling second best.

"The Red Bull was quicker than us in Bahrain and we have been doing our best to try to move our car forward so that we don't have to suffer that sting any longer than we have to."

Allison said the progress shown at Imola was a result of the team having found a much better balance for the W12 rather than it being down to any car upgrades.

Both drivers had struggled with the rear end in Bahrain, but an intense effort at the factory plus a mammoth recent simulator session with Bottas has unlocked some answers about the best setup the car needs.

"It is just people working in simulation trying to see the areas in which the car was protesting at us over there [in Bahrain]," he said.

"It's about finding a balance through the corner that works better. But the key is nearly always the same and that is making sure the tyres are at the right temperature front and rear axle, from braking, through the apex and on the way out again."

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While Mercedes leads both championships, Allison said the start to the season did not feel the same as previous years because the team was not fully on top of its car.

"It is a different sensation," he said. "Although last year was amazing as we collectively produced one of the all time great racing cars and had a season that was pretty immaculate, there are not too many parts of last year that are deeply, deeply memorable.

"An easy win doesn't linger in the mind like one that is fought for tooth and claw like that one in Bahrain.

"Winning from a position of underdog, which is what we definitely were, is just a brilliant experience and you remember it forever. I know I will be boring my grandkids with that."

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