Christian Horner makes Mercedes claim that will be music to Lewis Hamilton’s ears

Mercedes struggled with a number of issues in pre-season testing, while Max Verstappen and Red Bull looked imperious.

Mercedes’ pre-season testing in Bahrain did not go exactly as the team would have hoped, with the team even being forced to retire from one session with a hydraulic issue.

While the porpoising issues which hindered them so severely last season seem to be a thing of the past, the Silver Arrows have not managed to shake every issue from last year.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were both seen struggling with the balance of the W14, often starting to lose the car on the exit of corners as they tried to accelerate away.

These issues have led team principal Toto Wolff to admit that the team are not as competitive as the Red Bull and Ferrari just yet, but the Austrian does believe that once upgrades come early in the season his team will be challenging with the very best once again.

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Red Bull on the other hand were phenomenal in pre-season, topping the timing screens every day and experiencing very little issues.

While the energy drink giants are undoubtedly the favourites for the championship once again this year, the team will face competition from Ferrari, Mercedes and maybe even Aston Martin this year.

Team principal Christian Horner has been discussing the performance of Red Bull’s rivals in pre-season and is not entirely convinced by Mercedes’ struggles, hinting that they could be sandbagging.

“Very difficult to say. I mean Ferrari look like they’re quick, Mercedes’ form [is] difficult to read at the moment,” he said.

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“Are they holding something back? We’ll see this time next week; I think all will become clear.”

Mercedes did improve in the second half of Bahrain’s tests, setting some competitive lap times on the softer tyres as Lewis Hamilton and George Russell got to grips with the W14.

It has been suggested by Russell that Mercedes might have to wait until F1 returns to Europe to become in contention for race wins, as the W14 is not currently on the level of the RB19 or the SF-23.