Rival F1 teams in awe of Red Bull’s pre-season dominance

As the sole pre-season Formula 1 test wraps up in Bahrain, the consensus is clear: Red Bull remains the team to beat. Despite Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz setting a quicker time than Red Bull’s Sergio Perez on Thursday, albeit on softer tyres, the paddock feels Red Bull has the clear upper hand. Charles Leclerc of Ferrari conceded, “The feeling is that Red Bull are even faster than us,” but remains hopeful for a “surprise” at the season opener on the same track.

Yuki Tsunoda, who drives for Red Bull’s sister team RB, provided a candid assessment of the competitive landscape, stating, “We’ll leave Red Bull aside as the leaders. Then Aston Martin and Ferrari look ok, same as McLaren. Things get more complicated behind that.” This comment underscores the perceived gap between Red Bull and the rest of the field.

The hope that the field would converge under the stable ‘ground effect’ regulations and budget cap has been met with skepticism, especially regarding Red Bull’s pace. Ferrari’s team boss, Frederic Vasseur, humorously questioned if this narrowing gap applies to Red Bull, highlighting the challenge of catching up to the frontrunners. “Does this also apply to Red Bull?” he laughed.

Dr. Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s top consultant, had to admit the obvious comparative struggles of their rivals, noting, “Ferrari have more problems than us. And the McLaren looks more nervous.” This observation reflects confidence in Red Bull’s position relative to the competition.

Estimations of Red Bull’s advantage vary, with Marko suggesting a three-tenths margin, while Mercedes insiders speculate it could be as much as a full second. Ferrari’s Sainz recognized Red Bull’s strength, stating, “They are very strong. But it’s not something that surprises us. They started perhaps in April to work on this year’s car.”

McLaren boss Andrea Stella expressed his astonishment at Red Bull’s bold strategy, moving away from the highly successful 2023 design to adopt a different concept. “I have to say that when I saw the car, I was like ‘Wow’. They’ve certainly been brave in changing some of the shapes that made the car so successful last year,” Stella said. He lamented that the car which was already the fastest has found further improvements, attributing it to Red Bull’s ability to “put a lot of development work into new concepts from a strong starting position.”

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