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George Russell

Russell suggests Verstappen advantage has shrunk since testing

George Russell has admitted surprise over Mercedes' pace following Thursday practice in Bahrain and believes Max Verstappen's advantage has shortened since testing.

Russell Bahrain
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George Russell believes Max Verstappen's advantage over the rest of the Formula 1 field has decreased since pre-season testing last week.

Red Bull failed to top either of the opening two practice sessions for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Thursday, with Russell's Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton ending FP2 as the fastest driver.

Hamilton admitted that he was surprised by Mercedes' pace out of the block having struggled for front-running form over the last two seasons.

While Russell was also positively surprised by the W15's performance, the Briton explained that he feels Verstappen is still the driver to beat.

“We need to sit down and understand where this increase in performance has come from, whether it’s a one-off, whether we can sustain this and what we need to do to fight for a serious position on [Saturday],” said Russell.

“Our aim is to try and focus and fight for victory. After testing Max looked a long way out in front.

“Now that gap has reduced but he’s still out in front and he’s got a healthy margin compared to the others rather than a ridiculous margin compared to the others.

“By no means does it mean we’re back or we can fight just yet.”

Russell anticipates race fight

While Hamilton was at the head of the field at the end of FP2, Russell followed closely behind in second place.

The one-time Grand Prix winner was buoyant over Mercedes' chances in qualifying but is expecting to have a more challenging time in the race.

“We’re not going to get carried away with ourselves,” he said. “The qualifying pace looked really strong, we still need to try and understand why it was so good.

“We made some changes from the test and it exceeded our expectations.

“Ultimately it’s the long run pace where everything happens and Max was still ahead of us.

“It was very close with Fernando, with Lando and the Ferraris. Lewis and I were very similar as well. So we’ve got a real fight on our hands in race pace.”

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