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Formula 1

Bahrain GP will exaggerate ‘league of its own’ Red Bull’s lead

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
2 min read

Ferrari and Mercedes drivers expect Red Bull to be “in a league of their own” in Formula 1’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, but there’s a faith the track may be exaggerating the gap.

Speaking in the FIA press conference ahead of the first race weekend of 2023, both Mercedes driver George Russell and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc acknowledged the evidence of testing showed Red Bull as being ahead.

“It’s definitely fair to say Red Bull are in a little bit of a league of their own this weekend in Bahrain,” said Russell.

“They’ve had a…strong start,” admitted Leclerc, “Red Bull and Max seem to be very very strong.

“It’s only testing so it’s difficult to quantify by how much. But it seems that they are a bit in front compared to us. So we’ve got some work to do.”

Leclerc maintained Ferrari had experienced a good Bahrain test with strong reliability and the full workload completed, but while “we didn’t show everything” the same was true for all of its rivals.

“We will only see in qualifying, it’s very difficult to know exactly how we are – but global picture just tells me we are maybe a bit behind,” he added

And when both were asked why there should be any faith about Red Bull being clawed back if it starts off half a second in the clear, as some are suggesting, Russell pointed to Mercedes’ “exceptional” development from last year before saying: “Even the improvements we’re going to probably bring to the car this weekend compared to the test will take us a step closer – but as I said, it’s a very unique circuit here in Bahrain.

“I’ll be surprised if the gaps are that large at other circuits.”

“I think, on the half a second, it’s still to early to say!” Leclerc insisted. “Also during testing, depending on what time of the day you’re doing the laptime, it’s very difficult to judge.

“We’ll wait and see to see how far off we are.”

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Day Three Sakhir, Bahrain

Russell’s Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton said that while Red Bull “developed an amazing car last year” and was still winning without “pushing at the end” of the season, he was optimistic its advantage would come down.

“I don’t see that changing necessarily at the start of this season,” said Hamilton, in reference to Red Bull’s 2022 edge.

“But hopefully those that are just behind will continue to apply pressure.

“I think Ferrari have got a decent package, I think Aston have got a decent package and we are hunting too.”

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