Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko has revealed that he was not in awe of Mercedes’ sidepod design in Bahrain, but noted that they appeared unconvincing during last year’s test and still won the Constructors’ Championship.
Mercedes rolled into the second pre-season test in Bahrain with unique “zero pods” as they attempt to tackle the new technical regulations.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was quoted as saying that the design “violated the spirit of the regulations,” but the validity of these quotes remains unclear.
He then later clarified that, while the new sidepods are a unique interpretation of the regulations, they have not transgressed the rules of the sport.
“Mercedes has come up with an extreme [solution], that’s a different interpretation,” he stated.
“But to answer the next question, whether we think it’s legal or not? Yes, absolutely. It looks like it ticks all the boxes.”
Between them, Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell clocked 384 laps over the course of the three days in Sakhir, and the Mercedes car appeared occasionally uncomfortable to drive as the teams attempt to accost the “porpoising” and general handling issues caused by the ground effect-induced aerodynamic alterations.
Dr Marko agrees that Mercedes’ design is innovative, but he is not altogether sure it will yield the performance gains they are looking for.
“We were looking more at the performance than the sidepod and it wasn’t that impressive,” he told Austrian newspaper Osterreich.
“What Mercedes has brought looks revolutionary. But what matters is the time.
“And I say – the main thing is that we’re the fastest again. But I also remember last year, when Mercedes was also behind in the tests.”
Russell and Hamilton have both suggested that Ferrari look the quickest ahead of the new season, and Sainz has dismissed these as “typical” Mercedes mind games, with Max Verstappen giving the same opinion.
“If someone is doing well or a team that everyone expects to do well, then it’s: ‘Oh no, we’re definitely not the favourite’,” he said.
“And then a week later, when things do go well, all of a sudden it’s: ‘Oh no, but we turned it around completely within a week. Not normal, unbelievable work. Thanks to all people in the factory!'”
Whether Mercedes are struggling as much as their two British drivers would have us believe will be revealed at the end of the week when the drivers to take to the Bahrain circuit once more to contest the first race of the year.