Brackley, Wednesday: After a few mystifying days back at their base in the UK, Mercedes GP have offered an explanation as to why their cars were not as quick as expected during the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Team CEO Nick Fry, grinning inanely as he confronted reporters at the team’s factory this morning, explained that procedural errors within the team had led to a lessening of pace that saw Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher finish fifth and sixth at Sakhir, rather than fighting for the podium as had initially been expected.

Sandbagging: Mercedes GP
Sandbagging: Mercedes GP

“Like most teams, during pre-season testing we were holding a little bit of pace in reserve, not showing our hand completely until we got to the first race,” Fry said. “Some teams call it sandbagging.

“The problem came when we got to Bahrain; by the time qualifying rolled around, suddenly Ross realised that we had forgotten to take out all the sand. So our cars were circulating, weighed down by these sandbags and running testing pace for the whole weekend. It’s disappointing because we could have been much quicker if only we’d thought to unload the cars beforehand.”

Because the problem was not identified until qualifying, Fry said, parc ferme regulations meant that the sandbags could not be removed and the team had to race on with them still in the cars.

“Next time out, we will be much quicker,” Fry promised. “Either that or I’ll have to come up with some other excuse.”

Meanwhile, Bernie Ecclestone is said to be “livid” that Mercedes shipped so much sand all the way to Bahrain using his pre-arranged transport, given that the substance is relatively abundant on the Middle Eastern island.