Helmut Marko estimates Red Bull advantage after ominous Bahrain testing pace

Michelle Foster
Red Bull mechanic working on the RB20.

The Red Bull RB20 is estimated to have a 4 km/h straight-line speed advantage.

Despite being more than a second up on the competition on Wednesday’s timesheet in Bahrain, Helmut Marko believes the RB20’s advantage over its rivals is only “three-tenths”.

Max Verstappen, putting his new-look RB20 through its paces at the Sakhir circuit on the opening day of pre-season testing, was once again the driver to beat.

Seven-tenths up on Charles Leclerc at the lunch break, the reigning World Champion upped the ante in the evening session to pull 1.1s clear of Lando Norris.

‘One thing is also clear. Red Bull is ahead’

But while few conclusions can be drawn from the day given it is testing and the drivers are running different programmes, fuel loads and tyres, it looked ominous for Red Bull’s rivals, who this year had hoped to close the gap.

Instead, based on Day One’s results, it looks as if they’ll again be fighting for best of the rest.

Marko has given them some words of encouragement as he feels the tyre compound, as well as the time of day, played a role in Verstappen’s phenomenal lap time.

“The lead is not as big as it looks,” said the Red Bull motorsport advisor insisted to Auto Motor und Sport.

“We were the only ones who took to the track with fresh medium tyres in the cool evening hours. That explains the big jump we made in the afternoon.”

Instead, he added: “We estimate the actual lead to be three-tenths.”

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According to AMuS, Adrian Newey’s latest creation once again has an advantage over its rivals on the straight with the report claiming that’s a good “4 km/h”.

Marko is, according to Motorsport.com, happy with what he’s seen so far.

“Very, very, very impressive,” said the Austrian. “We ran 142 laps, without any problems, more or less. And the concept is working. So that was the first main thing. The car is reacting, and we are developing. Yeah, it looks good.”

Weighing in on the team’s new concept, which draws inspiration from parts Mercedes ran last season but has since scrapped, the Red Bull advisor was even more happy to see the RB20’s reliability.

“I mean, it’s always a risk,” he said. “And if you look at Mercedes, they had some problems, and our car was working from the very first lap. So we are very proud and glad.

“Also, the reliability is unbelievable. And [from] what I saw tyre-performance-wise, again, Ferrari has more problems than us.

“Also, the McLaren seems to be a little bit more nervous. Mercedes, I don’t know what they did. For sure they are faster than what they have shown. But we can be confident.”

All in all, it had Mercedes chief engineer Andrew Shovlin declaring: “One thing is also clear. Red Bull is ahead.”

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