Mercedes 'embracing' role as F1 chasers for first time since 2013

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Mercedes is embracing the chance to chase rather than be chased as Toto Wolff insists Red Bull are the team to beat in 2021.

At the season opener in Bahrain two weeks ago, the unexpected conclusions from testing proved correct as Max Verstappen led practice and qualifying, claiming pole by almost 0.4s.

On race day, Mercedes hit back with Lewis Hamilton able to take the lead through the pitstops before just holding off the Dutchman until the finish, after an overtake by Verstappen was deemed illegal.

"If we are honest with ourselves we are still lacking pace in qualifying and quite a bit," team boss Wolff said following the race.

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"Today I think we were competitive. We were definitely competitive and the strategy made all the difference.

“In the past, Bahrain has not been a strong race for Red Bull and they have not been particularly good out of the blocks either, but this weekend shows that in 2021, that is no longer the case,” he added.

“I have no doubt they are extremely difficult to beat and are leading the pack.”

And after seven years during which Mercedes have largely been the dominant force on the F1 grid, the Austrian senses a renewed motivation to fight from behind.

"In a way, there is a feeling within the team that we very much enjoy the new circumstances that, on paper, Red Bull is ahead with maybe all of their package," Wolff told

"It's theirs to lose, ours to win because when you have the quickest car, you have got to deliver on that.

"We have to catch up. We have to deploy our A-game and find more performance, but strictly speaking, we are second-best on the road.

"The fun factor of us being on the hunt is very enjoyable because it is a new situation, and we embrace this opportunity," he insists.

"That hasn't been the case since 2013 and I loved 2013 and it was Red Bull domination then: they were just going to win the fourth championship."

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However, engineering chief Andrew Shovlin notes Mercedes face an uphill task in closing the gap to Red Bull this season.

“Ordinarily, you would look to the wind tunnel to try to just put on a bit of downforce over the course of the year and you would look at the power unit to try to add a bit of power,” he explained.

“But both of those are very restricted by regulation this year, so we have very little time in the wind tunnel. The dyno is also very restricted and you can’t improve the engine for performance this year.

“So we are having to look at more subtle areas to do with drivability characteristics and also arriving at the circuit with the car well sorted and well balanced, doing your homework and knowing how well the tyres will run.

“This season is actually going to come down to the fine margins much more than normal because I don’t see us really being able to develop to a point where we can get clear ahead. Hopefully Red Bull won’t develop to a point that they are clearly ahead.”