Mercedes has downplayed its chances of winning this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix due to Red Bull F1’s superiority in high-speed corners.

F1 heads to Imola for round two of the 2021 season, with Mercedes and Red Bull expected to be embroiled in another titanic fight for the victory.

Lewis Hamilton came out on top at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, making the most of Mercedes’ aggressive strategy, while putting up a stern defence against Max Verstappen.

Due to the strong winds experienced in Bahrain, Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin believes the season-opener won’t be representative for the rest of 2021.

“Bahrain is quite an outlier circuit; it’s very hard on the rear tyres and it’s been very windy here,” Shovlin said. “We’ve had 30-40km/h winds, which is pretty much the upper end of what you see in a normal race season. 

“We are certainly hoping this is not one of our finest tracks because we have had quite a tough time. I think we got the car in a decent window by the end, but it’s been awfully hard work and if we look at Red Bull through the test and practice, their car has worked really well and not looked weak at any point.”

Shovlin expects Red Bull to hold the performance advantage at the next two races at Imola and Portimao due to how well the RB16B performs at high speed.

“So, hopefully, we will find circuits that suit us more than this, but looking to Imola and Portimao, I don’t think we are good enough in the high-speed and there is plenty of that in Imola and Portimao and that’s one area where they have got an advantage on us at the moment,” Shovlin added.

“What’s our mindset? Well, we still don’t think we have got the best car but we also don’t think we have got the most out of the package yet. When you develop the car there are lots of areas you look to exploit performance from and some of them we don’t think have delivered everything they should. 

“So we are going to be working pretty hard to bring performance to the car over the next couple of races. But I think it’s going to be tough and at those circuits there are elements that will move us in the right direction, but we have struggled with the rear end here in Bahrain and those circuits are a bit easier in that regard, but as I said, high speed is something that we wouldn’t be naïve in thinking that will be a strength of ours at those tracks.”