Mercedes did not show great performance at this year’s Formula 1 pre-season testing. Last year’s rival Red Bull topped the sheets – still Max Verstappen does not see himself as title favorite for 2021 but thinks Mercedes are.
Both Mercedes drivers, Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, suffered issues during the pre-season testing for the 2021 Formula 1 season. The rear of Mercedes’ new challenger, the W12, seemed to cause problems for the drivers, as they reported rear instability. Their biggest rival last year, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, had strong 3 days of pre-season testing, finishing the event with the fastest lap time of all. Red Bull enjoyed three flawless days of testing with their new RB16B car, evoking rumors that the team from Milton Keynes might be the favorite for the 2021 title.
The Mercedes team needs yet to understand what caused their issues during testing. Why the rear end of the W12 showed such a weak performance is still in the stars. Andriy Shovlin even called Red Bull faster than the Silver Arrows, which almost gave their biggest rival Max Verstappen the role of the favourite ahead of the season opener in Bahrain.
But it is Red Bull driver Verstappen himself who believes that Mercedes stays the favorite for the championship. The Dutchman does not see himself as a title favorite for the upcoming season either: “I don’t see myself as the favorite at all.” He evaluated Mercedes, addressing their dominance over the last years and why he thinks that the German manufacturer will stay on top: “If you have been so dominant in the last seven years and you have such a dominant car, even if you have the worst floor under your car, you are still good. So I still see Mercedes as the favorite.”
The data of the ‘Black Arrows’, which Red Bull saw from the testing, didn’t make Verstappen optimistic too. The son of former F1 driver Jos Verstappen thinks, that Mercedes’ top performance is yet to come. “You can see on the data, of course, what they are doing,” he told Ziggo Sport. “They did their fastest lap with less power, and then two laps taking it easy. And then the next lap with half a second more power from the engine. So they are fast, no doubt. But now that things have been a little bit more difficult in the beginning, of course, they try to push us into the role of the favorite. And then when they are up there again, it’s all genius.”
“They did the same last year at some of the races. On Friday they said: ‘Yes, Red Bull looks very strong. But deep down I knew that wasn’t the case. And then on Saturday, they’re there again and it’s like: ‘Oh, wonderful!’” About the performance of his own team during the three days of testing, Verstappen had a positive view. “[…] I am happy with what we did during testing and I am happy with the balance of the car.” To the question “[…] Whether it is good enough?”, the 23-year-old baked small buns. “No idea. We’ll see in Q3.”
Verstappen is of the opinion, that “it is also normal that they [Mercedes] are the favorites, isn’t it?” It was to the question If he remains his strategy of calling Mercedes the favorites ahead of a season. His answer was less surprising than Mercedes’ weak performance during pre-season testing. Who is the favorite after round 1 at Sakhir? We will see.