Mercedes have genuine difficulties with their 2021 challenger, ex-F1 driver Ralf Schumacher believes.
The Silver Arrows struggled in pre-season testing, with a gearbox issue hampering Valtteri Bottas’ running in the morning session of the first day and Sir Lewis Hamilton struggling for pace in the W12 over the course of the three-day test.
F1 fans and some other pundits have suggested that Mercedes are simply sandbagging and are still likely to be favourites to win both Championships this year.
However, Schumacher said Mercedes appear to have an “aerodynamic problem” with their 2021 car.
“Mercedes is dealing with an aerodynamic problem; you can see this from the difficulties at the wheel of Hamilton because the car does not behave as expected,” the ex-F1 racer said.
“I don’t think the first race will be easy for Mercedes.
“On the contrary Red Bull can take advantage of a car that already responds perfectly to commands of their drivers,” Schumacher added.
If Mercedes’ pre-season struggles indeed prove to be genuine, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen would be in an excellent position to win the 2021 Drivers’ Championship, though McLaren also looked strong in Bahrain last week.
However, the Dutch ace has said that Mercedes didn’t show their true pace in testing and he expects Red Bull and the Silver Arrows to be evenly matched once the season gets underway this weekend.
“We can see what they are doing on the data,” Verstappen said.
“They drove their first fast lap with less power. Then they drove two quiet laps, followed by a second flying lap.
“In that they won half a second on engine power,” he added.