https://the-race.com/formula-1/how-2021 ... e-verdict/
The most impressive car is the Red Bull. That isn’t a surprise, but just how good it looks in the hands of Max Verstappen is startling.
He is able to turn in with absolute commitment and carry the speed into the apex, but most breathtakingly he can get on the power decisively earlier than anyone – seemingly without a hint of wheelspin.
Last year’s Red Bull was tricky to master and Verstappen did so brilliantly. But as Lewis Hamilton said earlier in the day, Red Bull is a different beast this year and Verstappen looks completely at one with it. Regardless of the stopwatch, the poise of the Red Bull RB16B on track screamed class of the field.
But there is a caveat in the form of Mercedes. In Hamilton’s hands, the Mercedes is relatively subdued and it’s some time before he appears remotely interested in attacking on turn in.
Then as he picks up the pace, the car’s limitations did appear to show. It’s clear Hamilton isn’t turning in as decisively as Verstappen, but how much of that is the fact he doesn’t need to given this is testing and how much is down to the rear-end instability is difficult to be sure of.
Most likely, it’s a little of both. Hamilton never commits to the corner like Verstappen, but he is pushing and the contrast on traction is also clear. While the Red Bull is planted, the Mercedes squirms in the corner exit as Hamilton feeds in.
Remember, one of the areas where the new aerodynamic regulations can hurt is in terms of traction and that supports the suggestion that the Mercedes rear end is the issue. This was a strength of the car last year but it could be hurting in all phases of the corner in 2021.
This is definitely not the Mercedes W12 either at its lightest or driven at its hardest, so it’s not a like-for-like comparison with the Red Bull. But it is lacking compared to the Red Bull.
The question is, how much and will it be resolved by the time qualifying gets under way for the first race of the season in Bahrain when we get the first completely representative lap times?
The ace in the midfield pack is the McLaren. Daniel Ricciardo appears confident under braking and in corner entry. While plenty of drivers have moments, the McLaren rolls serenely through. For a car that was a little sensitive to the wind last year, that’s an encouraging development.
Overall, the Mercedes-engined MCL35M is a step behind the Red Bull in terms of catching the eye, but it responds to Ricciardo and giving him the balance he needs to carry the speed into the apex without struggling to rotate the car.
But the driver who gave up that car to switch to Ferrari, Carlos Sainz Jr, isn’t having such a good time.
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