Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have fresh Red Bull Max Verstappen worry over F1 title battle

Mercedes are fearful of Red Bull‘s performance advantage and are not convinced that they will be able to regain the upper hand before next season, according to reports. The Silver Arrows claimed the first Grand Prix victory of the new campaign last month courtesy of a monumental effort from reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, but were largely off the pace compared to their Constructors’ Championship rivals over the course of the weekend at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Red Bull poster boy Max Verstappen asserted his dominance in free practice before storming to pole position ahead of the race, in which he pushed Hamilton all the way but ultimately came up just short.

The Dutchman managed to squeeze ahead of his Mercedes counterpart with only a few laps to go, but was ordered to give up his newly-found lead after exceeding track limits in order to complete the move.

The result left the Silver Arrows counting their blessings, with the victory coming as something of a surprise given Red Bull’s dominance in earlier sessions and at pre-season testing the previous week.

The German outfit’s performance appears to have been significantly hindered by new aerodynamic regulations mandating changes to the floor area.

Mercedes believe that the alterations have put them at a disadvantage as they seem to benefit the high-rake approach of Red Bull, and are unsure of their ability to put things right between now and the end of the season, according to Crash.net.

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With mid-season development heavily restricted on all fronts, it remains to be seen whether the seven-time Constructors’ Championship winners can claw back the deficit in order to stand a greater chance of mounting a sustained bid for additional silverware this year.

Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin revealed that Mercedes are being forced to think outside the box in the search for improvements, suggesting that the battle with Red Bull at the front of the grid could go down to the wire.

“Ordinarily, excluding this year because it is different, you would look to the wind tunnel to try to just put on a bit of downforce over the course of the year, and you would look at the power unit to try to add a bit of power,” he said.

“But both of those are very restricted by regulation this year, so we have very little time in the wind tunnel. The dyno is also very restricted and you can’t improve the engine for performance this year.

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“So we are having to look at more subtle areas to do with drivability characteristics, and also arriving at the circuit with the car well sorted and well balanced, doing your homework and knowing how well the tyres will run.

“This season is actually going to come down to the fine margins much more than normal, because I don’t see us really being able to develop to a point where we can get clearly ahead.

“And hopefully Red Bull won’t develop to a point that they are clearly ahead.”

Although Mercedes have established a firm grip on F1’s top spot over the last decade, there have been times when the Silver Arrows have not had things go all their own way.

Ferrari had been posing a real threat to the championship ambitions of their German rivals as recently as 2018, and Shovlin believes that his colleagues will need to dig deep once again to find their fighting spirit in the face of uncertainty this year.

“This is not alien to us and it’s what we’ve got to work with, two teams that look to be pretty much neck and neck at the moment,” he added.

“It’s going to be pretty tough, and there’s no doubt Red Bull operate really well and are a sharp and well-focused team that don’t make many mistakes. Max is clearly a very mature and sharp racer now, so he’s difficult [to compete against].

“And they develop well, they have shown every season that they have the capacity to put a lot of performance on the car. So, regardless of the starting point, this is not going to be an easy championship.

“It is going to be tight and it is one that we are not going to give up on, and they will tell you the same.”


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