The opening four races have pointed to Red Bull having a quicker car in qualifying, but Mercedes holding the edge when it comes to managing tyres over longer runs.
The advantage that the Mercedes held in looking after its tyres was obvious at last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, when Lewis Hamilton’s rubber appeared to be in much better shape at the end of stints than Max Verstappen’s.
Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin is not convinced that the race pace advantage is guaranteed at every venue yet though, and suggests that the issue appears to revolve around car balance.
“We are still not really at a stage where we go in thinking we’ve got a better race car or we are better at looking after the tyres,” he explained.
“It is actually quite hard to say what it was [in the Spanish GP]. We were able to sit behind them and, when you are the lead car and someone can sit on your gearbox for a whole stint, it is not normally good news.
“But we are still in the stage of the year where we are collecting data across the different tracks. But it does look to be a bit of a trend that maybe we have got a slightly more neutral car.
“Theirs seems to be a bit harder on the rear tyres over a stint whereas we are using both axles quite well. But we will see with some more data whether that is really a feature of the car or just how we are setting it up.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner thinks there is no doubt that Mercedes has had the pace advantage in recent races, but remains encouraged that his squad is much closer than it was 12 months ago.
“I think the Mercedes, and we’ve seen it since Bahrain, their race pace has been better than ours at each GP that we’ve seen so far,” he said. “I think that their degradation has been better than ours.
“So we knew these last two circuits would play to their strengths. They have done that. But we’re an awful lot closer than we have been and I think if we can find some more race pace it’s still very, very tight between the two cars.”