‘Red Bull in a league of their own’

Max Verstappen's Red Bull look the team to beat heading into the 2023 Formula 1 season


George Russell believes Red Bull are the team to beat at the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix, and appeared to count Mercedes out of the battle for the second-best team on the grid too, as he predicted Ferrari and Aston Martin would be strong.

Mercedes endured a difficult 2022 F1 season as they struggled with the new regulations and were blindsided by porpoising though they did manage to grab an unlikely podium at the season opener after both Red Bull cars retired.

The team seems confident their 2023 car is a step up on the W13 but Russell predicted it’d be a long shot to bag a podium in Bahrain.

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

“The mood in the camp is good, it was a good test – we learnt a lot. I think we learned that obviously Red Bull are looking really, really strong.

“But equally, we feel like we’ve got a lot of room that we can improve, we probably brought up a little bit more pace this weekend after the learnings of testing.”

George Russell gets his first taste of the W14, Mercedes’ 2023 F1 car | Finn Pomeroy/Mercedes F1 Team

Red Bull looked the team to beat in testing as they set the fastest time of the week, had the best race sim and drove the fourth-most laps of any team, picking up where they left off in 2022.

The team have been slapped with aerodynamic testing penalties including a reduction in wind tunnel time after they broke the cost cap in 2021 but so far that doesn’t seem to have slowed Max Verstappen or Sergio Perez down.

However, Mercedes remain confident in their development and Russell pinpointed the areas they needed to improve to catch up to the Red Bulls.

“Naturally everybody’s always looking for more downforce,” Russell added. “And I think the tricky thing with these new regulations is you’re trying to get the car as low as possible and gain that downforce.”

“Red Bull have been very strong generally speaking in their in their drag and I think we may have made a small step improvement this weekend. So I hope that’s reflected in the speed traps and that’s almost a bit of free lap time.”

Leclerc: Ferrari have more pace to give

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc celebrates on the podium with the trophy after winning the race REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

Ferrari‘s Charles Leclerc agreed Red Bull were the favourites heading into the weekend, but added Ferrari did have some pace up their sleeve to unleash on the Bahrain International Circuit.

Leclerc won the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix after a wheel-to-wheel battle with Verstappen, but it was the Dutchman who was crowned world champion as Ferrari capitulated as the season went on.

That continued a curse on the winner of the opening race – no driver has won the season opener and gone on to win the championship since Nico Rosberg in 2016.

“We didn’t show everything,” Leclerc said. “But Red Bull didn’t show everything, nobody showed everything, we will only see in qualifying.”

“They had a strong start, Red Bull, and Max seems to be very, 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.

“But it’s only the beginning, the goal is definitely to go one better.”

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
- Advertisment -


Carlos Sainz during practice for the 2024 Spanish GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Carlos Sainz hits out at Lewis Hamilton over unpunished Spanish GP move

Carlos Sainz believes Lewis Hamilton should've been given a penalty for his overtaking move that forced the Ferrari driver...
Max Verstappen during 2024 Spanish GP Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen warning to Red Bull and demands improvement

Max Verstappen demands Red Bull improvement as another tough race saw the reigning world champion have to really work...
Start of the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

LIVE F1 Spanish Grand Prix 2024 – Reaction as McLaren mistakes costly as Verstappen...

Welcome to Total-Motorsport’s F1 live coverage of the Spanish GP 2024. Held at the iconic Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, today’s race...
Lewis Hamilton during 2024 Spanish GP weekend | Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton brushes off furious Sainz after Spanish GP incident

Lewis Hamilton risked angering Carlos Sainz after claiming the Ferrari driver "left the door open" to overtake him during...
Lando Norris of McLaren after the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Lando Norris: McLaren easily had the best car at Spanish GP

Lando Norris believes Spanish GP victory should have been his as McLaren had the best car in Barcelona, but...
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Christian Horner warns of Norris danger to Verstappen after Spanish GP battle

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner warned that Lando Norris and McLaren are their strongest competitors following a nail-biting...
McLaren team principal Andrea Stella at the 2023 Belgian GP | McLaren F1 team

McLaren chief pinpoints where 2024 Spanish GP was lost

McLaren's team boss they lost the 2024 Spanish GP by Turn 1 as a poor start saw Lando Norris...
Max Verstappen, Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton on the podium after the 2024 Spanish GP | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

F1 Standings after 2024 Spanish Grand Prix

Max Verstappen showcased his racing prowess at the 2024 Spanish Grand Prix, clinching his seventh victory of the Formula...
Lando Norris during the 2024 Spanish GP weekend | McLaren

F1 Fastest Lap: Spanish GP 2024

The Spanish GP Fastest Lap award is given to the driver who posts the quickest time over one timed...
Lando Norris during the 2024 Spanish GP weekend | McLaren

F1 2024 Spanish GP: Driver of the Day

Lando Norris was crowned 2024 Spanish GP Driver of the Day, but couldn't land the biggest prize of all...
- Advertisment -