Helmut Marko admits he’s worried about Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes

Max Verstappen's formidable lap times on the opening day convincingly addressed these uncertainties.

Helmut Marko has acknowledged that Mercedes are quicker than Red Bull had anticipated following pre-season testing, delivering an encouraging update for Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton.

Nonetheless, the Austrian reckons that Ferrari encounter ‘more problems’ than the reigning champions, while McLaren is experiencing ‘nervousness’ due to the performance of the RB20.

Following the unveiling of Red Bull’s 2024 challenger, which signified a significant departure from the design ethos of the RB19, uncertainties arose regarding how the team would stack up against their competitors.

Max Verstappen’s formidable lap times on the opening day convincingly addressed these uncertainties.

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Elsewhere, Mercedes enjoyed a week devoid of reliability issues, whereas Ferrari suffered setbacks when Charles Leclerc incurred damage from running over a loose drain cover on the second day.

McLaren entered pre-season with high hopes, but the team from Woking remained relatively subdued in their feedback compared to their rivals.

Expressing his observations after observing the on-track proceedings in Bahrain, Marko informed Motorsport-Total that the Red Bull team is “proud” of the performance extracted from their 2024 contender, the RB20.

“The reliability is exceptional,” Marko elaborated. “And in terms of tyre performance, Ferrari seems to be encountering more issues than us once again. McLaren also appears somewhat jittery.

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As for Mercedes, I’m uncertain about their approach. They’re definitely faster than what they’ve shown us. Nevertheless, we can maintain our confidence.”

Marko’s upbeat outlook concerning the W15’s performance found resonance with George Russell.

Following the conclusion of the second day of testing, he remarked: “It’s undoubtedly an improvement.”

The apprehension within McLaren, as highlighted by Marko, was palpable when Andrea Stella spoke ahead of Friday’s sessions.

“I believe the car provides a solid foundation for development and represents a step forward compared to last year’s model,” he stated.

“However, overall, it’s evident that many teams have made strides, which is to be expected.

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“Each week of development brings about performance gains.

“One team appears to have made a significant leap, unfortunately the team that was already the quickest last year.

“The chasing pack seemed fairly closely knit last year, and it appears even more so this year.”