Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has warned it would be "foolish to underestimate" Mercedes despite outperforming its title rival in pre-season testing.
Over three days at the Bahrain International Circuit, Red Bull looked fast, composed and consistent while Mercedes suffered reliability and set-up issues as well as a relative lack of pace.
Despite the gulf between the two teams last weekend, Horner believes it would be unwise to discount the German manufacturer completely.
"It is a long season - 23 races is a massive season - but it is really important for us to get a good start and the Mercedes test was probably a bit scrappy by their standards but they are such a quality team," Horner said, speaking on Sky Sports' F1 show.
"It would be foolish to underestimate them and their ability to bounce back. We saw that a couple of years ago, where they looked to be underperforming in Barcelona and then won very comfortably in Australia.
"It is good for us to be going to the race in Bahrain with a decent amount of mileage, a reasonable feeling from the car and now all focus is making the car quicker rather than fixing problems."
F1 has introduced a budget cap for this season aimed at reducing the costs spent by teams in pursuit of championship glory.
Horner pointed to other distractions, such as the new regulations set to be introduced in 2022, as extra hurdles to a successful campaign for Red Bull this year.
"It is always tough balancing resources and Mercedes are a big and quality team," he added.
"But we have got the added challenges of the budget cap this year and the new regulations for 2022 and of course, we are building our own power unit division here as well so it is pretty busy.
"But everyone is super motivated here and looking forward to the racing season. The fact it looks like we have a decent car to start the year with, we have proved our quality in being able to develop in the past and we need to focus on doing a good job again this year."
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