Mercedes are wary that Max Verstappen is likely to be their closest rival when the 2020 Formula 1 season finally gets underway next month.
The Red Bull-owned Spielberg circuit will host the opening two rounds of the delayed season, and it’s a circuit Red Bull go well at with Verstappen claiming the last two wins there in ’18 and ’19.
Mercedes’ technical chief James Allison is wary of that, as well as Mercedes’ recent struggles at the circuit, which is repeated will be compounded by the fact the venue will host two races.
“There’s no doubt that Max is going to be a formidable opponent for us this year,” Allison told the F1 Nation podcast.
“Ferrari too showed glimpses of some form in pre-season testing, [but] we would imagine that Max will again be strong in Austria because Red Bull are always super-pumped up there – and they’ve got a bit of a track record.”
Although Mercedes has won four Austrian GP’s since the track returned to the calendar, they have struggled in recent seasons and Allison is keen to prove those were anomalies.
“Our campaign in Austria last year was hampered by our own mistakes on the cooling side, which meant that we were chugging around way off the actual natural pace of the car,” he explained.
“And the year before, [we were] hampered by some unreliability and rather clumsy moves around the Safety Car. So I think we’re all looking forward to getting to Austria, and maybe showing a bit more of what we’re capable of than the slight underperformance that we put in in the previous two seasons.”