Mercedes ready for 'neck and neck' battle with Red Bull after Bahrain

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Mercedes is ready for a "neck and neck" battle with Red Bull in the coming races following their back and forth duel in Bahrain.

While Max Verstappen had the pace, strategy gave Lewis Hamilton the track position to just hold off Dutchman for the first win of Formula 1 2021 in the desert.

But the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend did confirm what pre-season testing at the same circuit had indicated, that Red Bull has overtaken Mercedes in terms of outright performance.

"We don’t really have any strengths relative to them, is what I would say," said Mercedes chief engineer Andrew Shovlin.

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"There have been a lot of years where we have been able to rely on straight-line speed or high-speed cornering or interconnected corners, but you look at it here [in Bahrain] and we weren’t taking any time out of them anywhere.

"There were a couple of corners where they really took chunks out of us in qualifying – the high-speed and also Turn 9 and 10, they were very strong there. That’s really the main thing.

"In qualifying, they were just bang on the pace and in their best form they are just quicker than the others, so we need a faster car, simple as that."

Shovlin does believe Bahrain could be an "outlier" due to the windy conditions and focus on managing the rear of the car, in particular the tyres.

However, the Briton also expects the next two circuits at least to also favour Red Bull.

"I don't think we're good enough in the high-speed, and there's plenty of that in Imola and in Portimao, and that's one area where they've got an advantage on us at the moment," said the Mercedes chief.

The Brackley-based squad isn't afraid of transitioning from the hunted to the hunter.

"What's our mindset? We still don't think we've got the best car, but we don't think we've got everything out of the package yet," Shovlin explained.

"When you develop a car, there's lots of areas that you look to exploit for performance and some of them we don't think have delivered everything that they should. So we're going to be working pretty hard to bring performance to the car in the next couple of races. But I think it's going to be tough.

"In 2017 or 2018 I think we went four or five races before we won a race," he noted.

"Some of those we didn’t get everything perfect, but some of those Ferrari was just better than us in race and qualifying.

"So we’ve had some tough years in the past few seasons, this is not alien to us and it’s what we’ve got to work with – two teams that look to be pretty much neck and neck at the moment."