George Russell holds Red Bull fear after Max Verstappen dominates F1 testing

Max Verstappen finished Day 1 of 2024 Formula 1 testing in Bahrain over one second ahead of his nearest challenger

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Mercedes driver George Russell has admitted Red Bull appear to be in a league of their own once again after Max Verstappen’s ominous display on Day 1 of Formula 1 Testing at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Verstappen was over a second quicker than his closest challenger Lando Norris as the Dutchman clocked 143 laps in Adrian Newey’s revolutionary RB20, with a fastest time of 1:31.344.

Red Bull dominated the 2023 with 21 wins out of a possible 22, with Verstappen winning 19 of them, to obliterate records that never looked like being broken.

But Red Bull’s perceived advantage, even at a stage when lap times are not viewed as being important in testing, could see them move further clear into the distance.

Asked about Verstappen’s performance on Day 1, Russell conceded the constructors’ champions are already “a step ahead” of the rest of the field, having been left impressed by their work during the winter break.

“I think probably as you’d expect from from Red Bull, they have such a great momentum at the moment,” Russell said. “They started this these new regulations on the front foot, and they came here have been solid ever since.”

George Russell gets to grips with the Mercedes W14 at 2024 pre-season testing in Bahrain | LAT Images / Meredes F1 Team

Red Bull set the benchmark

Red Bull have been tipped to blow away the rest of the field after bringing a raft of impressive new aerodynamic features to their car, including inlets on the sidepods. And the buoyant mood on Day 1 in the garage would have been noticed by everyone, with Russell left in no doubt they are primed to collect more silverware.

“They are, as I said, definitely the favourites, definitely a step ahead of everybody else here in Bahrain. They’ve had an impressive winter, no doubt, but that was to be expected,” Russell added. “[They are] such an impressive team and outfit. And we need to see where we fall out come the race.”

He later added: “We still haven’t seen truly yet where everybody is falling out, but Red Bull seem to have done a really great job again.

On a personal level, Russell will be hoping for a better season after scoring just two podiums in 2023, as well as amassing 100 fewer points than in his debut season with the Silver Arrows.

His testing session, comprising of 122 laps, saw him finish 12th behind Zhou Guanyu and Logan Sargeant on the C3 tyre. And there is some uncertainty as to where Mercedes will be come the season opener in Bahrain in nine days’ time.

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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