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Start Emilia Romagna GP
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Red Bull Racing

Are Verstappen and Red Bull finally outperforming Mercedes?

The first day of the 2021 F1 season is over after teams collected data for eight hours at the Bahrain International Circuit. Max Verstappen got off to the perfect start in his Red Bull, while Mercedes had a day to forget. Is it a sign of things to come?

Analysis
To news overview © Getty Images/Red Bull Contentpool

All eyes were on Mercedes and Red Bull heading into the first day of winter testing on Friday, especially the latter, as the Milton Keynes outfit had done a good job of keeping the new RB16B out of sight apart from an edited studio picture in the leadup to on-track action.

As a result a cloud of mystery hung over the team, and aside from a slightly modified wing here and there, there wasn't any surprises when it came to the car at the start of the day. This doesn't mean that Red Bull won't reach into their bag of tricks further down the road.

On the other side Mercedes got a lot of attention, but for all the wrong reasons. After completing his outlap, Valtteri Bottas was forced to watch for hours as gearbox problems sidelined him. The Finn completed just six laps in total, though none of them were at race pace. Lewis Hamilton took over in the afternoon, but he also had a day to forget. The Mercedes W12 not only had reliability issues, but the reigning champion was regularly seen off track as he couldn't quite get his car dialled in.

Of course conditions played a factor in that as wind, sandstorms and a track that was anything but clean made things tricky. However, nothing has seemingly been able to pierce Mercedes' armour in the past, which is why it was so surprising to see Hamilton go off track the amount of times that he did. More importantly, his lap times left a lot to be desired.

It was amazing that the seven-time constructors' champions struggled as much as they did. Red Bull, on the other hand, got their weekend off to a great start. Verstappen worked on getting a good balance in the morning, and he too had a moment that almost resulted in a spin, however in the afternoon he punched in laps with regularity until the clock read zero.

Mercedes' new floor, which has been described as revolutionary, was highlighted with regularity. However have the new Formula 1 rules, which have resulted in a loss of downforce, had a negative impact on Mercedes and less so on Red Bull? The latter use a high rake concept, while Mercedes have opted for a car that is closer to the ground.

The first of three days of testing has no doubt given Mercedes a headache. While Formula 1 is a sport where things can go wrong, it's still problematic for Mercedes that they completed just 48 laps compared to the 139 done by red Bull. The laundry list of problems means that Mercedes mechanics will have to work hard overnight in order to get things off on the right foot on Saturday.

Verstappen's comments after Friday's results were controlled as the Dutchman knows that times aren't the most important thing during testing days. However given the relative ease with which Red Bull were able to complete their programme, it's no doubt a good start for the Milton Keynes outfit. By the same token, don't expect Mercedes to fall apart either.

Conditions in Bahrain are likely to remain harsh on Saturday as well with more sandstorms expected. The second day of testing gets underway at 08:00 CET and can be followed live on RacingNews365.com.

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