Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

Verstappen: “We would be stupid” to expect an easy fight with Mercedes

2021 F1 season

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Max Verstappen dismissed Mercedes’ claims Red Bull have overtaken them as the team to beat in Formula 1 during the off-season.

Last week the world champions stated “Red Bull are ahead on performance” and had been the “class act” in pre-season testing. But Verstappen said Mercedes’ run of championship successes makes them the clear favourites for the 2021 season.

“For sure the test was a positive start for us and you can always be happy when you get that number of laps in and get a good understanding of the car,” said Verstappen. “But it doesn’t say anything about pure performance.

“I know people are excited and think we are just saying this, but Mercedes are still the favourites. How can they not be when they have won seven world championships in a row?”

Verstappen said Mercedes “want people to think we are the favourites and put the pressure on us but we are just focussed on ourselves.” Red Bull and Honda – who will leave F1 at the end of the year – are “pushing to beat them and anyone else who may be quick this year”, he added.

“I see every season as a new opportunity to beat them, but we would be stupid to expect that fight to be easy and look at testing and think we are ahead,” said Verstappen.

“I personally can’t wait until we are all pushing in Q3, that is when you will see everyone at full power with low fuel and that is the time to see who developed performance wise and then in the race we will see who can keep that performance over a race distance. Let’s hope we can be good at both.”

Pre-season testing was compressed to just three days as a cost-saving measure. Verstappen’s time in the car was shared equally with new team mate Sergio Perez.

“I didn’t mind having only one-and-a-half days in the car,” said Verstappen, “for me the important thing was the mileage and seeing that the set-up changes we made over the test were working.

“You can’t talk about proper limitations yet as we have only driven in hot conditions and every track needs different things, but I have a good feel for the car. From my side the car was stable enough to feel comfortable, there are always things to do better but we are always making improvements and that is what the engineers will do.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 31 comments on “Verstappen: “We would be stupid” to expect an easy fight with Mercedes”

    1. Nothing to add really. Those Mercedes mind games may have worked with Ferrari, but RB and Max won’t be fooled.

      1. @d0senbrot I’m not sure the mind games really worked against Ferrari, I think Ferrari’s problems were internal.
        If you are referring to 2019 specifically, Edd Straw recently wrote an article detailing exactly what Mercedes’ thinking process was during pre-season testing, and how they actually didn’t expect themselves to be so far ahead of Ferrari come Melbourne. I think Mercedes’ insistence on downplaying their chances every time is a tactic not just for their opponents, but also for themselves. Toto Wolff has insisted upon a zero-complacency mindset, and these little “mindgames” are a part of making sure nobody at Mercedes ever feels comfortable.

        1. @mashiat

          I’m not sure the mind games really worked against Ferrari, I think Ferrari’s problems were internal.
          If you are referring to 2019 specifically

          I think Mercedes’ mind games worked on Ferrari to be honest. There was a bit of sandbagging followed by talking up Ferrari, which definitely got some complacency in Ferrari’s heads. If they had the mindset of an underdog, and that they were lagging Mercedes on performance, maybe they would have shown up with more when they arrived in Australia.

          It’s hard to say really.. without having been a part of the Ferrari squad. But for me.. you can make out that Ferrari were stunned and confused in Australia. There was a bit of panic, and they were thrown off their game. This wouldn’t have happened if Mercedes didn’t get their hopes up.

          1. @todfod I personally don’t think you are right about them getting complacent from Mercedes alleged mind games, nor was there panic, nor were they thrown off their game, nor did Mercedes get their hopes up. But if indeed you are right and that is what happened then Ferrari certainly don’t deserve to be considered a top team, and certainly don’t deserve Championships, or at least they didn’t under that mix of leaders and managers. I’m mean, if even the majority of fans understand to take testing with a grain of salt, and to take a teams words as just words and not actual proof of anything on the track, then…

            1. @robbie

              then Ferrari certainly don’t deserve to be considered a top team, and certainly don’t deserve Championships,

              Ferrari are a top team?!? Ferrari win championships?!?! Sorry.. had to throw that in.

              As I said, it’s hard to say what Ferrari’s mindset was going in to race 1 in 2019. Maybe they were confident enough considering they had a massive cheat under the hood.. who knows? We did see the surprise on their faces when Hamilton qualified 0.7s ahead of them. They definitely didn’t expect that. If Mercedes had put in a fast lap in the pre season test.. maybe they would have been less shocked for sure.

          2. Mercedes try it on every chance they get so Ferrari really were used to it. They turned up with a car that was ½ second faster, Ferrari’s mindset wasn’t going to make up much of that.

    2. Their car this year looks easier to drive than the predecessors. However, we said that in 2019 about Ferrari, and first race…. 1 second off Mercedes in qualifying, and this man above even finished ahead of both red cars… Even though Ferrari did run lower engine modes during that weekend.

      Maybe after 4 races, we will get a better picture of the order. But if Mercedes win in Bahrain on pure performance, then that could mean trouble for every team…

      1. Indeed, I don’t get how people call ferrari 2019 a competitive car, it was nowhere near, not reliable, only sometimes quick in qualifying and on a straight line.

        1. Ferrari should have won in Bahrain, baku, Canada, Austria, Spa, Monza, Singapore, Sochi, japan and Mexico in 2019 before their cheating engine was put on notice, that is 10 taces out of 18. Yes they would have been highly competitive if Vettel wasn’t their lead driver, and making mistake after mistake. The car was a rocketship, but Vettel made too many mistakes, the team made a couple and so did young LEC, but the car was CLEARLY competitive, if not the fastest car on the grid.

          Reply moderated
    3. I hope the situation ends up with a circuit specific advantage at least.

      Mercedes on the fast ones, RBR on slow ones or something like that.

      We (and Mercedes) could see what happens when they turn their engine down. First was Gasly in Brazil 2019, then Verstappen in the last race in 2020. Mecedes chassis and drivers could not compensate for it.

      But they still must have the strongest engine, they still must have power in reserve, so 2021 is theirs to loose.

      1. Wouldn’t consider brazil 2019 a good example tbh, hamilton had a damaged wing when he wasn’t able to overtake gasly in the end, however I’d say red bull was very good in that particular race, if you see how verstappen kept overtaking hamilton.

    4. Wise words from an ever wiser head. Of course I hope Verstappen and Red Bull are in the fight this year, and granted, with the development restrictions it’s theoretically their best shot yet. But the inherent step ahead (and often: …then some) Mercedes have had throughout this engine formula isn’t just going to disappear.

      All in all, fingers crossed and let’s see. It would certainly be nice to have an actual inter-team battle throughout the season, it’s been too long.

      1. @aiii

        and granted, with the development restrictions it’s theoretically their best shot yet. But the inherent step ahead (and often: …then some) Mercedes have had throughout this engine formula isn’t just going to disappear.

        And that’s the issue I have with the current FIA/Liberty agenda. To enable a secondary team to win a championship It hinges on knobbling arguably the most successful team in F1 history. As I’ve said before it’s a competition!

        1. @robbie You’re the on who said covid 19 determined the world championship in 2020 not me.

          the development restrictions for this year were not even a ‘knobbling’ of Mercedes, but a combination of the teams having to have downforce removed so that their inevitable development one year to the next would not add the inevitable extra downforce over last year’s that would have meant the tires would have been at risk of failing, as well as the reality of the pandemic and all the consequence to the series from that,

        2. @johnrkh
          Oh, and while we are at it:
          How about the switch to heavier, wider cars in 2017, clearly aimed at supporting the team with the best engine on the grid?
          How about the switch to thinner thread tires, clearly aimed at supporting the team with actual overheating issues?
          How about the new front wing, clearly aimed at hamstringing high-rake cars?

          The only reason why Mercedes is so successful, is because the FIA and FOM made it so.

      2. Indeed, however 2019 wasn’t that long ago! Sorry to bring it up, but it was a lot closer than people recall, and I believe Hamilton in a Ferrari that year would have won the title too.

        1. It was close for a few races and then it was not. That season was wrapped up just as quickly as the 2018 and 2017 campaign was, 3 races from the end, so I wouldn’t exactly call it an outlier in championship contention.

          There were fun competitive races in each of these seasons, that’s not really an issue, but no season has really had a competitive championship challenge.

        2. @john-h Since you’re playing ‘let’s pretend’ then would that have been a Hamilton engrained at Ferrari since 2014, against let’s say Rosberg engrained at dominant Mercedes since then too, but without an LH as a teammate and thus likely a multi WDC himself, having not retired? Or are you saying you’d just helicopter LH into that Ferrari seat for the one year, new to the team and car, and throw…who?…into his dominant car? Would it be LH at Ferrari vs LH at Mercedes, lol? What if you threw Max into that dominant Mercedes just for 2019, and threw LH into that Ferrari just for 2019? I’d give the nod to Max. Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh, hey!! Lol don’t know where that came from, it just popped into my head:)

          1. @robbie

            Would it be LH at Ferrari vs LH at Mercedes, lol? What if you threw Max into that dominant Mercedes just for 2019, and threw LH into that Ferrari just for 2019? I’d give the nod to Max. Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh, hey!! Lol don’t know where that came from, it just popped into my head:)

            Mate it’s not good to drink before breakfast :)))

    5. Once again Max has summed up the reality perfectly, just as he did during the testing weekend. The nod goes to the ones who have dominated over the last 7 seasons until someone can prove otherwise on the track, and that takes a full season, not just the first race, to prove. We’ll know more by Q3 this weekend, and then each race has to play out as it will after that. We’ve seen Mercedes ‘only’ share wins with Ferrari in the first halves of seasons, to go on and utterly dominate the second halves, when they haven’t utterly dominated from race one.

      It’s one race at a time to see how the story unfolds.

    6. I really really hope we can see Verstappen challenge for the championship all season long.

      1. @paeschli That would indeed be wonderful, and quite a feat.

    7. In a recent dutch (ziggo) TV interview Max basically confirmed RedBull knows Mercedes were sandbagging in the pre-season test. He said something in the lines of:

      we as a team have so much more information on what our opponents are doing. The crowd may be fooled but we won’t.

      1. Azmo, from what I understand, Ziggo is not to be trusted. But if I’m wrong, perhaps provide an exact quote rather than a ‘something in the lines of…’

        1. Wouter Visser
          22nd March 2021, 19:53

          Ok i went the extra mile for you; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKYY9EKOJEw&ab_channel=ZiggoSport

          Good luck sitting trough the terrible presenter though.. :)

        2. Max comment came from his mouth if you watch the youtube

          1. @macleod Tried opening the video yesterday and again today and it says not available for this country (I’m in Canada).

            Not that it’s a big deal but I was just trying to suss out how Max saying they as a team have so much more information on what opponents are doing, and how the crowd may be fooled but we won’t, which seems obvious to me…that they have more info than fans do, translates to ‘Redbull knows Mercedes were sandbagging’ as claimed by Azmo.

    8. Either Mercedes have a fundamental problem with their car that they can’t fix in due order, or they don’t. In the last case, it seems unlikely that they get beaten.

    9. Realistic and sensible from Verstappen, but still sounds quite optimistic

      1. Maybe this year RB can start with a car that they don’t have to improve on to keep up with Mercedes.

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