Christian Horner believes Mercedes’ talk of being in a difficult place after testing is all tactics to take the spotlight away.
One can be easily forgiven for not having much hope of change in Formula 1 this season. Mercedes have won the last seven Drivers’ and Constructors’ titles in a row, and the 2020 chassis have been largely carried over to 2021.
But, pre-season testing in Bahrain certainly planted the seed of doubt. While Red Bull powered through the three days with no issues and the fastest overall time, Mercedes meanwhile encountered reliability issues, while the W12 was a real handful.
“Toxic” and a “little diva” are the harsh criticisms which Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff hurled at their 2021 challenger, but Horner believes this is “all part of the game” as Mercedes try to take the pressure off themselves and dump it on Red Bull.
“There is no denying that after the smooth running of the three-day test in Bahrain, there seems to be an excitement out there that we can end Mercedes’ seven-year dominance of F1,” said Horner in his column on the Red Bull website.
“But we had a debrief within the team after the test and it is fair to say we are a little more cautious on the subject and we cannot underestimate the size of the challenge ahead of us on many fronts.
“We know that Mercedes have not won by mistake for the past seven years; they are a quality, class team that will be motivated to come back strong.
“We saw it a couple of years ago where there was a similar story during pre-season testing and then they smashed it out of the park at the first race in Melbourne.
“So, you cannot take anything for granted. And at this stage it is good that we have a solid basis from which to develop the car, rather than fixing an inherent problem.
“Of course, Mercedes are trying to move the spotlight away from themselves, which is all part of the game, but the reality is they are the reigning seven-time world champions and it is down to us to close that gap and put up a fight.
“They had one of their strongest seasons last year and this year’s car is an evolution of that, so let’s see what we all have in Bahrain and the rest will follow.”