Verstappen downplays title chances

26 February 2021 22:42:57 GMTPlus10

Max Verstappen has downplayed his chances of challenging Lewis Hamilton for the Formula One world title insisting Mercedes "must be the favourites".

The Dutch star drove Red Bull's new car for the first time this season on a test day at Silverstone and insisted it was far too early to say if it is going to be competitive.

Verstappen enjoyed a decent 2020 in a car which could never fully compete with the all-conquering Mercedes.

He won twice – at Silverstone in August and at the season-closer in Abu Dhabi in November – and finished third in the drivers' championship, a creditable nine points adrift of Hamilton's Mercedes' team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

The launch of their 2021 car, the RB16B, has been shrouded in secrecy – even footage of this week's test day was edited to apparently hide whatever technical innovations the team have conjured up for the new season.

Not that Red Bull's rivals would have learned a great deal anyway since both Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez were limited to 100km and had to use different tyres from the ones on race days.

"We drive on demo tyres so it's never going to be the same," Verstappen told reporters. "It's more just to get the car out and run a few laps.

The F1 teams will have three days of pre-season testing in Bahrain before the season starts on the same track at the end of March.

Verstappen added: "I am always very realistic. We have to go to Bahrain and look at it there. I don't like to talk it up at the moment. We know where we want to be and where we want to get to and that's what we have to realise. But Mercedes must be the favourites still."

Verstappen is 2.10 to realise his dream and become world champion while Hamilton is 1.72 to land a record-breaking eighth drivers' crown.

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