Mercedes are “pushing hard” to close the performance gap to rivals Red Bull ahead of this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, where the energy drinks giant is expected to dominate.
Mercedes and Red Bull were fairly evenly matched at the season-opener in Bahrain, with Lewis Hamilton eventually overhauling Max Verstappen in the race to take victory by just a few tenths.
However Verstappen was suffering from a differential issue, which Red Bull claims cost him upwards of three-tenths per lap, which would easily have been sufficient enough to claim victory from pole position.
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff knows Mercedes are lagging behind Red Bull and expects a season-long championship battle.
“The 2021 F1 season certainly began in spectacular style,” said Wolff. “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.”
Wolff is looking forward to returning to Imola, which returned to the calendar last year following a more than decade long break.
“We’ve been eager to get back on track over this three-week break and round two, the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, is just around the corner.
“Imola is such an historic and iconic venue, and it’s a track the drivers really enjoy, with its sweeping nature, high speeds and variety of corner types.
“It’s quite a narrow track, which makes overtaking more difficult, but this puts more focus on strategy and makes qualifying even more crucial.
“We all enjoyed returning to Imola in 2020, after a 14-year gap, and it was made more special by the fact we secured our seventh Constructors’ championship on that weekend.
“We’re looking forward to being back there again this weekend and seeing what the 2021 race has in store!”