Mercedes believes it has no strengths over Red Bull this year despite beating its main Formula 1 rival to victory at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton turned a 0.4s qualifying deficit into a 0.7s advantage in the race to narrowly edge out Max Verstappen to the win during a thrilling 2021 curtain-raiser in Bahrain thanks to a combination of an aggressive strategy gamble by Mercedes and some brilliant tyre management and defensive driving.

While it managed to strike the first blow in this year’s championship fight, Mercedes insists it is under no illusions that the updated Red Bull RB16B is an overall stronger package compared to its W12.

“We don’t really have any strengths relative to them,” said Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin.

“There have been a lot of years where we have been able to rely on straight-line speed or high-speed cornering or interconnected corners, but you look at it here and we weren’t taking any time out of them anywhere.  

"There were a couple of corners where they really too chunks out of us in qualifying – the high-speed and also Turn 9 and 10, they were very strong there.

“That’s really the main thing. In qualifying they were just bang on the pace and in their best form they are just quicker than the others, so we need a faster car, simple as that.”

Shovlin revealed that Mercedes' pivotal strategic roll-of-the-dice was never its intended plan and rather an intuitive move in a bid to try and prevent Red Bull from capitalising on having an ultimately faster car.

“The intention is to hope you are quick enough that you can put yourself far enough ahead that you are not within undercut range, and the reality was that we couldn’t do that,” he explained.

“Lewis pushed pretty hard at the start of that second stint, Max was biding his time, and when he was sat two seconds behind us, you can only leave it there for so long before they take the initiative, undercut us and lead the final stint.

“So it was more by default that we fell into that course of action, and we knew that it was pretty aggressively long stint, and we certainly didn’t want us to be doing so many more laps than Max.

“The intention was to see whether they would dare cover us with Valtteri. Valtteri was in a guaranteed P3, and if Red Bull didn’t fancy doing that stint length, then they might have let us undercut Max and if not they would have covered and we would all be on the same age tyres.

“The pit stop problem blew that because then Valtteri wasn’t close enough to put Max under pressure, and honestly, from that point onwards we thought we were not going to win because Max would have the tire advantage and get by Lewis. But it was a very impressive job by Lewis.”