Mercedes: Red Bull battle in Bahrain 'hopefully a sign of what's to come in 2021'

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff hopes the battle with Red Bull in Bahrain was "a sign of what's to come" in 2021.

At the season-opener, all the surprise conclusions from testing were proven correct as Max Verstappen dominated practice and claimed pole position by almost four-tenths in qualifying.

On race day, however, Mercedes hit back as strategy gave Lewis Hamilton track position and he just held on to claim victory, with an illegal overtake thwarting the Dutchman's charge.

“The 2021 F1 season certainly began in spectacular style," Wolff said previewing this weekend's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Also Read:

"It was an encouraging first race, coming away from Bahrain with a double podium, and hopefully, the duel in the desert between us and Red Bull is a sign of what’s to come this year

“We may have won the first round, but we’re under no illusions that this will be a straightforward season. The car is still lacking pace over a single lap and Red Bull appear to have the edge right now. We’re pushing hard to close the gap, and this is a challenge we relish."

Unlike previous seasons, the chances of Red Bull and Mercedes remaining on level terms throughout 2021 do appear higher due to wind tunnel restrictions and the new budget cap.

Also, both teams are aware of the risk of diverting too much attention away from the new regulations for next season.

"It's going to be the same for all teams to balance resource that is going into the 2021 car, power unit, and the 2022 one," Wolff told

"It's clear that you can't afford to not perform in '21, but equally, the '22 regulations are going to be in place for quite some years. Once you start with a deficit, it's very difficult to catch up. So it will take a while for performance to converge.

"In that respect, these are tricky decisions that we are evaluating regularly."

And after years of dominating from the front, the Austrian admits the prospect of trying to match Red Bull has changed the mood at Mercedes.

“It does feel different. The regulation changes that were introduced last year, we just probably had more deficit to compensate,” he explained.

“So when we put the cars on the road, that was pretty clear. But it is what it is, and now we have just got to do the job to the best of our abilities.”