While Mercedes sees Red Bull as the favorite for the first race in Bahrain, Max Verstappen makes fun of such predictions.
Verstappen is firmly convinced that Mercedes bluffed during the winter tests in Bahrain and will actually start the 2021 Formula 1 season as the favorite: “I don’t see myself as the favorite at all,” the Red Bull driver said.
“When you’ve been so dominant for the last seven years and had such a dominant car, you can have the worst underbody and you’ll still be good.
“So, for me, Mercedes is and will always be the favorite. We could see on the data what they were driving. They did their fastest lap with less engine power. Then they went off the gas for two laps, and after that they did a lap with half a second more engine power. However, the tires weren’t quite fresh then, which is why it wasn’t enough for the absolute best times.
“So, they are fast, no question about it. But now that things didn’t go quite so smoothly at the start, they’re trying to put us in the role of favorites. And if they end up winning anyway, then of course it was a totally unexpected stroke of genius.”
Is it the new underbody rule?
The rear of the F1 W12 E-Performance was not as stable on the road as that of the Red Bull RB16B during the Bahrain test.
Based on video analysis, James Vowles, Chief Strategist at Mercedes, was able to identify something important.
“Our car lies badly, very different from the Red Bull. Their car was very stable, especially in the last sector. You could even see that from the outside, and I would say that the lap times reflect that. But it’s also clear that we don’t have all the technical answers yet. We need to plow through reams of data and understand where the unsettled rear end is coming from.”
The suspicion is that it has to do with the different design concepts of Mercedes and Red Bull. Mercedes relies on a flat angle of attack, and that seems to suffer more from the new underbody rule than Red Bull’s steeper angle of attack.