Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes matching Red Bull’s pace would be the “best possible scenario” for the squad early in the 2021 Formula 1 championship.
Max Verstappen led the way during pre-season testing and remained on top in the opening practice session in Bahrain on Friday afternoon.
Mercedes has swept to seven successive titles in the hybrid era but Wolff reckons the early speed displayed by the RB16B means Red Bull is in a strong position.
“Formula 1 is like many other sports, we are oscillating between depression and exuberance,” he said.
“When everything is perfect you think ‘here we go, this is ours’. But then when you have a few days that are not very good you kind of look at the data and say how should we ever catch that up.
“So this is what it is, and I think if we are behind, then we just need to catch up and do good job.
“If we are just about on the same pace, which I would consider today maybe is the best possible scenario for us, then we’re up for the fight with another great team.”
Wolff also suspects that teams such as Red Bull, which have traditionally run with a high-rake concept, have been affected less by the tweak to the regulations than Mercedes.
“Even if it looks like it was a carry forward car, I think we probably suffered more with the change of regulations than the cars with the higher rake,” he said.
“And the Red Bull has followed that concept since many years. It has been may be more difficult for us to recover some of the lost downforce.
“But so far from what I have seen and hope is that we can have a really tough fight. This is what the fans want to see, and what we would like to have.
“Red Bull is a formidable team, with people pushing really hard. They have won four championships before the hybrid power units came in, and no doubt they are the strongest competitor.”