Lewis Hamilton admits Mercedes was anticipating the deficit to Red Bull to be “double the gap” it ended up being behind in qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Mercedes came into the season opener having endured a troubled pre-season testing where it struggling with the rear instability of its 2021 car.

Although the team felt it had made some progress with the W12’s issues, it was unable to match the pace of eventual pole-sitter Max Verstappen who ended nearly four-tenths quicker than Hamilton on his final run.

Speaking after the session, Hamilton felt there was nothing more Mercedes could have done to overhaul Red Bull, insisting he gave everything he had.

“Congratulations to Max. He did such a great job, so fast on that last lap,” Hamilton said. “I absolutely gave it everything I had, but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough.”

Despite Red Bull ending Mercedes’ run of claiming every pole position in the first qualifying session of the season since 2014, Hamilton said Mercedes was “closer than we expected”.

“I think this is a really good step forward for us,” Hamilton said, as quoted by The Race. “Coming into this weekend we thought it was double the gap that you see today.”

Hamilton revealed there had been no developments on the W12 since testing, with the Brackley-based outfit eager to understand how to get more out of its current package.

“It’s different to last year’s with these changes,” he said. “We’re down in certain places, it’s gonna take some time to catch up, but it might be specific here for here and maybe not elsewhere.”