Mercedes have heaped more praise on their “fierce adversary” Red Bull, who they deem to be “ahead on performance” and the “class act” of testing.
Following a difficult pre-season in Bahrain with lost track time and a twitchy car, it remains to be seen just how vulnerable Mercedes are heading into the 2021 season or whether this is all mind games with their nearest rival Red Bull.
There is certainly plenty of cause for optimism at Red Bull after a very strong showing over the three-day test and Mercedes’ motorsport strategy director, James Vowles, is predicting it will be a close World Championship fight between the two teams.
“For what it’s worth, every season feels close to us, none of them feel particularly easy and straightforward, but where we finished that test, there are a lot of unknowns,” Vowles said in Mercedes’ testing debrief video.
“No one up and down the paddock will be able to pinpoint exactly where they are, but there is a few trends that have come out.
“I would say Red Bull are ahead on performance, they are the class act from the test, but it is a test, it is not a race and it is one event out of 23.
“Are we going to have a close season? I would say so.
“Red Bull are a fierce adversary, they’ve got a strong package and clearly came out of the box very, very quick.
“The result of that is across the season and across different types of track layouts, I am sure you will see us move forwards and backwards relative to them but I don’t believe we are going into this particularly finding all the performance that is missing or being ahead of them.
“So, in short: yeah, I think we are going to have a close championship this year.”
Meanwhile, trackside engineering director, Andrew Shovlin did state that Mercedes managed to make up for lost time following their gearbox issue on the first morning of the test, although each run did have to be cut into shorter segments.
“Pretty much, yeah,” Shovlin replied when asked if Mercedes were able to collect all the data they needed.
“We obviously plan the test items before we go out to the test and then you try to work through them in broadly priority order.
“Missing practically all of the first half of the day was a setback, and that meant that we had to work pretty hard to recover it, but by the end of the test we got through the majority of it.
“I think the compromise is more that we had to shorten some of the runs to be able to fit in the number of test items, so where we would have planned to do ten or twelve timed laps on a long run, that was coming down to seven or eight which is a little bit short really to be assessing some of the items if you are looking at anything that might affect degradation or tyre wear.”