‘It’s quite ugly, isn’t it?’ – Verstappen jokes about controversial Mercedes car

Max Verstappen saw the funny side of the debate surrounding Mercedes' interesting design.

Max Verstappen has given a lighter, more jovial take on Mercedes’ design ahead of the second pre-season test in Bahrain, commenting on the aesthetics of the machine.

The Silver Arrows arrived at the Sakhit International Circuit with a design concept that split opinion in the paddock, and caught the eye of many in an unprecedented piece of innovation.

The car has extremely small sidepod inlets to the extent that there are almost none on the car at all, and they have instead introduced grills in an unconventional design philosophy.

It is said to have fed back “impressive simulator performances, with already legendary gains,” as the Brackley squad seek to capitalise on the opportunities presented by the new technical regulations.

Red Bull team principal was quoted as saying that the new design “violates the spirit of the regulations” by Auto Motor und Sport, but this is disputed.

Verstappen was less incandescent about his rivals’ work in recent weeks, instead choosing to jest about the appearance of the car.

“I don’t know if the W13 is legal – but it’s quite ugly, isn’t it? It doesn’t look good, even the colour!” he amusingly told NOS.

He would then later insist that he and his team are focused on their own responsibilities this season, so he is not focused on Mercedes.

“I’m not concerned. We can only focus on ourselves, I said this so many times last year and that’s what we’ve got to do again this year,” he said.

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“Even if the car looks different, there are so many unknown things still that we need to learn about. So I’m not worried at all.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff equivocated that the FIA were well informed of Mercedes’ development steps between the first test in Barcelona and the second in Bahrain, and they saw no legal proclivities with the car.

“The process is very clear,” Wolff said. “When you go in a specific development direction, having the FIA a part of scrutinising it – you are exchanging data and you’re making them part of the process,” he stated.

“It’s clear that sometimes when you come with an innovation it creates the kind of debate that we’re having here. That’s why that was expected.”

The Austrian clarified his position that he much prefers the philosophy that a design aspect should be removed from the car only if there is a technical breach.

“We have the new governance with the super majority that’s needed,” he added.

“My opinion is that I would have preferred to stay with the old system, that if a team comes up with an innovation, you possibly can’t take it off the car if it’s compliant with the regulations.”

However, having consulted with the governing body, he sees no reason why they car should be deemed illegal.

“The FIA and F1 will for sure handle it with diligence and in the spirit of the sport. We were keen on not running alone with it, but being in touch with the FIA also, and that’s why I think it will be ok,” he explained.

Mercedes put 121 laps on the board between Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell on day one, with Russell taking the wheel on the morning of day two.

Verstappen is in control of the Red Bull on Friday after teammate Sergio Perez completed 137 laps on day one on his way to tenth on the timing screens.