George Russell believes Red Bull has already got the 2023 championship in the bag and should win every race this season given the race pace it showed in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen led home Sergio Perez in a comfortable one-two, with Fernando Alonso nearly 40 seconds adrift in third place after Charles Leclerc retired. Mercedes was limited to fifth and seventh with Lewis Hamilton and Russell respectively, and the latter says the margin that Red Bull holds gives it a chance in all 23 races.
“Red Bull have got this championship sewn up,” Russell said. “I don’t think anyone will be fighting with them this year. They should win every single race this year, is my bet … Yeah, I’d say so. With the performance they’ve got.
“Their pace seemed weaker this weekend than it was in testing. But they’ve got it easy at the moment. They can do what they like. They might not be on pole all the time because we know Ferrari are very competitive in qualifying but when it comes to race pace they’re in a very strong position.”
From a Mercedes perspective, Russell feels his team was lured into a false sense of optimism after qualifying competitively on Saturday but being the fourth fastest team in the race.
“I think after (qualifying) we thought we had a chance of fighting the Ferraris and the Aston Martins and clearly that wasn’t the case. The fact is we didn’t have enough performance on the car, I think (Saturday) exceeded our expectations, it’s probably back to the reality and we just need to get back to the drawing board and keep on working.
“When you have a fast race car everything becomes easier, the strategy is better, the tire management is better, race starts are a bit better because you have more grip and downforce. And (in the race) everything just wasn’t where we needed it to be so yeah work to do.”
What that work entails, however, is something Russell is unclear about, having expected Mercedes to be more competitive than it is at the start of the season.
“I’m not too sure to be honest, it’s definitely too early to say – we’ve learned a lot in these two weeks. Perhaps we’ve been a little bit too conservative with the design and we’re missing a little bit too much performance downforce wise with all these changes we’ve made to try and improve the porpoising which we probably seem to be the team that is, has the least amount of bouncing.
“We’ve gone from the team that has the most to the team that has the least. And perhaps with the changes the FIA made over the winter, that solved a lot of the problems and we’ve gone maybe one step too far but I’m not an engineer, I’m not an aerodynamicist so I don’t really know.