The Mercedes team believes it showed during the United States Grand Prix that it can put severe pressure on Red Bull at a track where it didn’t have the fastest car.
Max Verstappen secured pole position and despite losing the lead at Turn 1 to Lewis Hamilton, he sat close behind his title rival before undercutting to gain track position and holding on to win by a little over a second. Austin’s Circuit of The Americas had been earmarked as a Mercedes stronghold so Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says the win had added significance, but Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin believes his team’s showing is being underestimated.
“Rather than (just Austin) you need to look at the last few weekends,” Shovlin said. “This was the toughest one that we’ve had for a long time — probably since the break only Zandvoort has really felt as difficult as this one was. But on Sunday, while Max had us beat, I don’t think that was a comfortable win for them.
“We were forcing them to take some risks. If that’s a bad race for us, hopefully we can have more of the good ones — we’re still in a decent position. I think the pace that we showed in Turkey and Sochi, particularly in terms of the race pace, put us a bit further ahead of them than they were ahead of us (at COTA).
“Quali was tricky — we managed to get through that still with a car on the front row. It really will just come down to where the cars stack up over the remaining races, who adapts well. For us, the encouraging thing was we could still put them under pressure when we clearly didn’t have the best car.”
Although Mexico and Brazil are regarded as strong tracks for Red Bull, Shovlin believes Mercedes can target being a threat given how close the two teams have been at most venues.
“Honestly, for us if we can take the race to them like we did (in Austin), that’s probably the best-case scenario that we’re going to envisage. There’s a lot to do — it’s such a different circuit, it’s such a different environment for the power unit to operate in. But there haven’t been many circuits where we’ve been far off the pace.
“We’ve struggled in Monaco, we were struggling in Baku, we struggled a bit in that second Austria, but there are more of them where we can challenge them and we can challenge for pole. We know where we’ve struggled there in the past, we know what we need to be working on in the next week or so and that’s what we’ll get stuck into.”