Red Bull driver Max Verstappen has insisted that Mercedes’ 2021 challenger, the W12, is “indeed fast” despite the Silver Arrows appearing to be on the back foot during pre-season testing in Bahrain last week.
Speaking to Ziggo Sport, the Dutch ace suggested that Mercedes were sandbagging and claimed Red Bull “can see what they are doing on the data.”
Continuing, Verstappen explained: “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.
F1 fans also suggested that Mercedes were not showing their real place, and Valtteri Bottas himself joked that they were sandbagging.
Sir Lewis Hamilton will be gunning for his eighth F1 World Championship this year, but he struggled with the W12 more so than Bottas in pre-season testing, with him spinning his car twice.
However, Verstappen suggested Mercedes most likely got their set-up wrong and struggled with the changing wind direction.
“The wind had turned 180 degrees from the first day [on day two] and in that corner you always got a bit upset,” Verstappen said.
“We shouldn’t look too much behind it. Maybe Mercedes was a bit off with the set-up on the first day, but the last day it looked much more stable.
“They also scheduled two filming days in Bahrain for the first grand prix.”
Verstappen said he ultimately expects Red Bull and Mercedes to be “close” this upcoming season, and added that McLaren are most likely to be the best of the rest.
“I expect that we and Mercedes will be close to each other. Behind that it is difficult to predict, but I think McLaren is the third team,” he concluded.