‘Mercedes unstable rear puts Red Bull ahead’

Jon Wilde
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Sergio Perez Red Bull

Matching Red Bull is the best Mercedes can do in the early rounds says Toto Wolff.

Ralf Schumacher has expanded further on the aerodynamic issues he thinks Mercedes must sort out if they are to stamp their authority on Red Bull again this season.

Red Bull go into the 2021 campaign as favourites to win the opening Bahrain Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen heading the bookmakers’ lists, although Mercedes are still expected to prevail across the 23 races as a whole.

The potential early advantage for Red Bull is based on pre-season testing in Bahrain, where Verstappen and his new team-mate Sergio Perez enjoyed a more productive three days than Sir Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Whereas it went without a hitch for Red Bull, Mercedes lost running time due to a gearshift problem, Hamilton spun twice and the W12 car generally looked much more of a handful than its predecessor did throughout last year.

Schumacher, a veteran of 180 F1 race starts and a six-time winner, had previously identified the area where the consecutive seven-time World Champions appear to be struggling and has now offered additional insight.

“I’m thrilled with how good the Red Bull is,” said the 45-year-old German in an interview with Sport 1. “It lies like a board.

“Mercedes seem to have problems with the car. The rear seemed very unstable. That’s why I think Red Bull are ahead at the moment.

“But it’s also clear Mercedes haven’t shown everything yet and drove with more fuel on board. They have to get the problems under control as soon as possible, otherwise it will be close compared to Red Bull.”

Ralf Schumacher

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Asked to specify on the Mercedes issues, Schumacher added: “It looks like the rear wing, which is extremely important for a stable rear end, is not always optimally blown by the airstream.

“So we are talking about an aerodynamic problem. I know it is not easy to solve something like that.”

The brother of Michael Schumacher, the seven-time former World Champion, related an experience of his own with Williams as to how a small difference on the car can have a big effect.

“McLaren, the team to beat alongside Ferrari at the time, brought new wind deflectors that Williams wanted to copy,” he explained. “Somehow it didn’t work for us as we wanted, the car was unstable and difficult to drive.

“In the first race in Australia, I had contact with a rival and lost one of the wind deflectors. Then the car was suddenly much better and went three tenths of a second per lap faster!

“After that, the parts on the car were no longer seen. That just shows small parts can often have a big impact.”

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