Red Bull “in a league of their own this weekend”, rivals predict · RaceFans

Red Bull’s rivals predict they will be hard to beat in this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The reigning world champions showed no obvious weaknesses during pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit last weekend. The test did not go as smoothly for Mercedes or Ferrari, and drivers from the two teams expect Red Bull to set the early pace.

“It probably wasn’t the smoothest three days we could have hoped for,” Mercedes’ George Russell admitted. “But I think the lessons we learned from the test – I went back to the UK, I was on the simulator – the learnings, the findings we found I think is going to put us in better stead for this weekend.

“But I think it’s definitely fair to say Red Bull are in a bit of a league of their own this weekend here in Bahrain. But I think it’ll probably be a nice fight for second place, probably between Ferrari and Aston Martin.”

Charles Leclerc, who finished second to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in last year’s world championship, also believes the reigning champions will start the year as the team to beat.

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

“It’s only testing so it’s difficult to quantify by how much, but it seems like they are a bit in front compared to us. So we’ve got some work to do. It’s only the beginning but the goal is definitely to go one better.”

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Red Bull’s pre-season build-up went according to plan, said Verstappen. “We had three really good days. I think also just in general, the progress we made over the winter was very good.

“We have to, of course, show it this weekend. But not only this weekend, of course from there on you continue to develop and every track is also a bit different in terms of behaviour of the car. But yeah, the test days were good for us.”

He described the team’s new RB19 as an improvement “everywhere” over its predecessor. “That’s the aim. I mean, you always try to improve it. It feels nice, well-balanced.

“Every team of course lost a bit of performance with the floor [rules change], but you always try to gain that back in a way. So you have to find a bit of a new balance with the car, but it’s been good.”

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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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