Mercedes has won a record eight straight constructors titles, but according to the Sky Sports expert will enter this season with only the third-fastest car.
On the final day of official testing, Mercedes remained well off Max Verstappen’s pace, with the Red Bull driver setting a time of 1:31.720. Ferrari also impressed with a strong showing from Charles Leclerc (1:32.415), while the best George Russell could manage for Mercedes was 1:32.759.
Pre-season testing times are notoriously unreliable, with teams disguising their true pace, although seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was adamant his team will not be competing for race wins at the start of the season, despite unveiling a drastically different W13 in Bahrain, with the car’s sidepods attracting the most attention.
The car was also seen bouncing around – or ‘porpoising‘ – more than most, affirming the biggest issue plaguing the new generation of cars is yet to be fully resolved by Mercedes.
“The [Mercedes] car looks a handful but who would you put in front of them?” Brundle told Sky Sports F1.
“I’d go Mercedes [in third].
“Don’t write them off, Mercedes. I’m sure when they turn up – even in Race One – they’ll be quite a bit faster.”
Fellow commentator Anthony Davidson agreed.
“I still feel like there’s more in it,” he said.
“But it just doesn’t look good to drive and sparked by the bouncing issues they have.”
According to Brundle, world champion Verstappen is in the box seat heading into the season.
“Red Bull for me came away as the clear favourites,” said Brundle.
“I have absolutely no doubts in my mind that the aero package on the Red Bull took a significant step forward,” said Brundle.
“Red Bull have moved the game on in terms of raw pace, long run pace.
“They’ve been smiling all day. I think the pieces they put on the car suddenly made the whole car look better.”
Brundle added that Verstappen and Sergio Perez will face tough competition from Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
“Red Bull have got a race on their hands with Ferrari,” he said. “That’s a front runner, that’s a contender, no doubt about it.”
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