Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko believes that Mercedes is still the favorite despite not so good pre-season tests and believes that their actual performance was hidden by a much larger amount of fuel.
In pre-season testing, Red Bull continued where it left off at the end of last season and impressed with the speed, reliability and stability of the new RB16B with which Verstappen and Perez had no major problems.
In contrast, Mercedes had a number of problems, including a gearbox problem that caused them to lose half of the first day and an unpredictable rear end problem that surprised Hamilton and Bottas several times.
Despite the best pre-season testing in the hybrid era for Red Bull, Marko believes Mercedes is still the favorite.
“This is certainly the best test since Red Bull Racing has existed, everything has worked properly from the start,” Marko commented for German television RTL.
“But we know Mercedes is the favorite. I guess they drove with a lot more fuel than us.”
“The fact that they didn’t drive with the same level of fuel as the others already shows they have a lot of confidence. So I guess they have a lot more up their sleeve.”
“Mercedes is the favorite, and we’re the first challenger, that’s how I see the situation.”
Sergio Perez, Red Bull RB16B (Photo: Red Bull)
Marko also commented on the ranking behind the leading two teams and believes that McLaren has the third fastest car after switching to Mercedes engines, even though they set only the seventh fastest test time.
“Behind them [Mercedes and Red Bull] I expect a fight. I think McLaren will stand out a bit, but they’re not at the level of Mercedes and us. The midfield is certainly tighter than before.”
“Compared to the Mercedes, our car definitely seems calmer. Of course, it makes the job easier for the driver. It’s predictable and you can drive it easier at the limit. And that was our goal.”
“We wanted a fast car that was predictable. And I think we achieved that.”
Although Verstappen’s previous teammates have struggled to keep up with him, Marko believes Perez will be close very soon.
“With his routine and experience, we already expect him to be very close to Verstappen, at least in the race.”