George Russell has acknowledged Red Bull hold a “serious gap” to the rest of the pack, to such a degree not seen since the beginning of the turbo hybrid era in 2014 when Mercedes shot to the head of the field.
The last major reset of the technical rules in Formula 1 saw Mercedes fly well clear of the rest as the sport moved to 1.6-litre V6 hybrid engines along with significant changes inside the cars, with Red Bull – who had won four Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship doubles on the spin at that point – falling away from contention.
But with the 2022-spec cars being one of the largest technical overhauls in the history of the sport, chiefly through the switch to ground effect aerodynamics, Red Bull eventually eased clear of Ferrari in the second half of last season as Max Verstappen romped to a second World Championship in comfortable fashion.
But despite carrying a penalty for a minor overspend breach of the 2021 budget cap, Red Bull have managed to pull further clear of the field at the beginning of the 2023 season – with Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez lapping significantly faster than the rest in race trim in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Their pair of one-two finishes to begin the year have seen Red Bull open up a 49-point lead at the top of the Constructors’ standings already, and Mercedes driver was Russell was complimentary of his rivals for the job they have done in producing the RB19, but believes “everything’s all not lost” for his own team just yet in terms of getting back into the hunt.
Saudi Arabia GP team ratings: Small blemish for Red Bull with McLaren again off the pace
George Russell’s warning sign with Mercedes holding ‘a lot of performance in the pocket’ for near future
Ranked: The five possible F1 options facing Lewis Hamilton in order of likelihood
“I mean, firstly, you’ve got to give credit to what Red Bull have done,” Russell told Sky Sports F1 after the chequered flag in Saudi Arabia.
“The gap they have to the rest of the field, I think is bigger than we’ve seen probably since Mercedes in 2014.
“You know, it’s a serious, serious gap, and I guess everybody needs to keep working harder to understand how to close that gap.
“But we know we didn’t make the right decisions over the winter and I think we can regain some of that performance quicker than you would do ordinarily, so everything’s not all lost.
“We’re still going to be fighting as hard as we can. We want to win races this year. We want to be in the championship hunt, but we’ve equally got to be realistic, focus on ourselves and just get the fundamentals right for the long term.”