May 12, 2021

Mercedes see Verstappen as “a very mature, very smart racer now”

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In the round-up: Mercedes trackside operations director Andrew Shovlin says the team isn’t underestimating the threat posted by Max Verstappen, despite Lewis Hamilton beating him in the first race of 2021.

In brief

Mercedes alert to Verstappen threat

While Hamilton edged Verstappen to victory in Bahrain despite being beaten to pole position, Shovlin said their rivals rarely present such opportunities to be beaten.

“There’s no doubt Red Bull operate really well,” he said. “They’re a sharp, well-focussed team that don’t make many mistakes.

“Max is clearly a very mature, very smart racer now and he’s difficult. And they develop well, they’ve shown over every season that they’ve got the capacity to put a lot of performance on the car.

“So regardless of the start point, this is not going to be an easy championship. It’s going to be tight and it’s one that we’re not going to give up on. And they’re going to tell you the same.”

Shovlin pointed out Mercedes have faced similar challenges at the start of seasons in recent years, yet gone on to succeed. In 2018 Red Bull and Ferrari won races before Mercedes did.

“I think we were four or five races in before we went to race,” Shovlin recalled. “Some of those we didn’t get everything perfect but some of them Ferrari were just better than us, race and quali.

“So we’ve had some tough years in the past few seasons, this is not alien to us, and it’s what we’ve got to work with. So it is two teams that look to be pretty much neck and neck at the moment so I think it’s going to be a tough year.”

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On this day in F1

  • 40 years ago today Nelson Piquet scored a crushing victory in the Argentinian Grand Prix, while Brabham team mate Hector Rebaque retired from second with an electrical problem



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