Mercedes is trying to “push” Red Bull into the role of title favourite for 2021.
That is the view of Max Verstappen, who others think is genuinely most likely to win this season given Mercedes’ high-profile testing problems.
But the Dutchman thinks Mercedes still shone.
“You can see what Mercedes did from the data,” Verstappen told Ziggo Sport.
“They drove their fastest lap with less power, then two laps in which they took it easy, then the next lap with half a second more power. So they are fast, there is no doubt about that.”
He dismisses claims that Mercedes may have bungled the new aerodynamic rules around the floor area.
“If you’ve been as dominant as they have been over the past seven years, you’re still going to be good even if you have the worst floor,” said Verstappen.
He also played down Lewis Hamilton’s handling problems and spins.
“The wind had turned 180 degrees so that we had a tailwind in this corner, where you always have a bit of oversteer. I think he was also on used tyres,” said Verstappen.
“Something like that can happen easily, as I experienced myself in the tests so I don’t think we should worry too much about it.”
“Mercedes also didn’t do a film day or shakedown before the test so maybe they were a little off with the setup. On the last day they looked much better and then they did the filming so they’ll be ready for the start of the season.”
Verstappen, 23, said Mercedes “trying to push us into the role of favourites” is also a move to relieve pressure on the title-winning team.