George Russell expects the battle for victory on the Bahrain Grand Prix to be between Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, conceding that the group look “really, really strong” after pre-season testing.
Red Bull ended final week’s three-day check with the quickest time because of Perez’s blistering run on the ultimate night – the Mexican warning that they are going to be beginning 2023 “much stronger” than final yr, when early reliability points struck.
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As the F1 paddock reconvened for race week, Russell expressed his perception that Red Bull are the agency favourites heading into the brand new marketing campaign, whereas additionally tipping a shock contender to enter the combination alongside Ferrari and Mercedes.
“It was a good test; we learned a lot. We learned that obviously there’s a Red Bull looking really, really strong,” started Russell, talking throughout Thursday’s driver press convention in Sakhir.
“But equally, we feel like we’ve got a lot of room that we can improve [in]. [We’ve] probably brought a little bit more pace this weekend after the learnings of testing.
“It’s going to be, for sure, a challenging weekend if we want to try and fight for that victory. We probably knew that ahead of the season starting off where we do.”
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Expanding on what he did between the check and race weeks, Russell added: “I went back to the UK, I was on the simulator, and the learnings, the findings we found, I think, are 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. I think it will probably be a nice fight for second place, probably between Ferrari and Aston Martin.”
Despite enjoying down their expectations for the primary race, Russell described Mercedes’ 2023 bundle as “a lot, lot better” and added that he sees “no reason why we can’t achieve more victories” than the only real win he took with the W13.
“I think we need to trust in our process. Mercedes built a World Championship-winning car for eight seasons in a row, we’ve fundamentally got all of the same guys there and they haven’t forgotten how to build a fast race car,” he stated.
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“We were obviously on the back foot following the challenges of the W13, but I absolutely believe as this season progresses we’re definitely going to close that gap and there’s no reason why we can’t fight as the season hots up.”