Mercedes and Red Bull are likely to still be the two front-runners next season – and the Silver Arrows are wary that their rival’s stronger driver line-up could make them a more formidable opponent.
Speaking this week, Mercedes technology director Mike Elliott said he believes Sergio Perez will serve as a strong second driver to Max Verstappen in 2021.
“When you look at the teams we are competing against you’re obviously going to look at Red Bull,” Elliott told The Muscle Help Foundation when asked to single out their strongest rival.
“They will be our strongest opposition and I think in Verstappen they have a very good driver, and I think Perez will be a strong second driver to him for scoring points when Verstappen doesn’t [and] support their bid for the Constructors’ Championship.”
Aside from Red Bull’s driver pairing, Elliott named a few “key drivers” who will have an especially important season in 2021.
“Then I think if you look at the key drivers, [Charles] Leclerc is obviously a really good driver. It’s going to be interesting to see how [Sebastian] Vettel gets on at Aston Martin, to see whether he can reignite his career.
“Then I think most Mercedes people, as well as looking at our own drivers, probably would also follow what George [Russell] is doing at Williams.”
Russell has ties to the Mercedes F1 Team and was very impressive when he filled in for Sir Lewis Hamilton in the second race at Sakhir last year.
It has been speculated that the young British talent is very likely to make the jump to Mercedes in 2022, with him either replacing Valtteri Bottas or Hamilton, should the serial Champion decide to retire or join a rival team.