Mercedes' team boss Toto Wolff has admitted that he is relishing the challenge laid down by Red Bull Racing this year.
The Red Bull RB16B is, arguably, the fastest car over a single lap to start the season, displaying tremendous pace in qualifying in Bahrain.
Mercedes, closely match on race pace, managed to take the win after an aggressive strategy gave Lewis Hamilton the advantage of track position to hold on to win.
With Mercedes scrambling to find a little bit more pace from their W12 to compete with Red Bull over a single lap, Wolff has admitted a tough season lies ahead.
We may have won the first round, but we're under no illusions that this will be a straightforward season," Wolff told media ahead of the Imola weekend.
"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.
"The 2021 F1 season certainly began in spectacular style. 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."
The Imola circuit is more downforce demanding than Bahrain, meaning a tough challenge for the drivers through the sweeping corners in the Italian countryside.
Red Bull will be bringing updates to their RB16B for the weekend as they fettle in their new car, while Mercedes are aiming to find more rear downforce as engineer Andrew Shovlin admitted that copying the Red Bull aero philosophy is 'physically impossible.'