Damon Hill has not ruled out Mercedes being at the front this season, despite their apparent struggles for pace during pre-season testing in Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton has predicted the reigning Constructors’ champions currently sit behind Ferrari, Red Bull and possibly also McLaren in the current pecking order after six days of running in Barcelona and Bahrain respectively.
But there have been previous seasons in which the Silver Arrows appeared to have teething issues with their new cars before turning up at the first race and being at the front immediately.
With that previous form, the 1996 World Champion feels even if they have some catching up to do, Mercedes cannot be ruled out of title glory.
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“I think in the past they have had trouble in testing and then gone on to win the first race,” Hill told Sky Sports News.
“You should never discount them. They have won eight Constructors’ titles on the trot, so they have the capability.
“They might not catch up. They’ve got 22 races, so the championship is a long old haul. They might be coming from behind in the first couple of races, but I’ve learned not to discount them.
“But it looked like they had some troubles during the testing.”
Due to their lofty position in the Constructors’ standings last season, the new rules brought in by Formula 1 include a limit on wind tunnel time on a sliding scale, with more time being offered to teams lower down the final table from 2021 – with Hill saying Mercedes will not be able to throw as much money as they are used to in finding solutions to their issues.
“Working, basically,” he responded when asked how Mercedes can overcome their supposed deficit. “It’s all about time and work. They have enormous resources, but they are limited now on some of the resources they can actually employ because they brought in budget caps.”
When asked if the season would eventually boil down to another straight fight between Hamilton and Max Verstappen, Hill thinks the scope of the competition could broaden out further than just those two drivers.
“I think we could definitely see Ferrari in the mix,” he said. “Both drivers are very good and the Ferrari looks reasonably good too.
“Outside that, maybe McLaren [could challenge] and possibly Toro Rosso [AlphaTauri] from time to time. The Alfa Romeo looked okay as well.
“So there’s competition throughout the field, but I think the usual suspects will be at the sharp end – perhaps with a little bit of a stronger Ferrari.”
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