Max Verstappen interjects after George Russell reveals expected Bahrain GP deficit

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen speaking to George Russell on the press conference couch in Bahrain.

Will Red Bull have the pace advantage in Saturday's Bahrain GP?

Max Verstappen joked with George Russell about Red Bull’s expected race-pace advantage, playing it down to which the Briton replied with an “under-promise, over-deliver” quip.

Although Verstappen claimed the season-opening pole position in Bahrain, his 1:29.179 by no means destroyed the field – or morale.

Charles Leclerc was his closest rival in second place, 0.228s down, but even ninth-placed Lewis Hamilton was only half a second slower than the Red Bull driver.

How big will Red Bull’s race advantage be in Bahrain?

Given that Red Bull’s rivals walked away from pre-season testing fearing a four-tenths deficit to the closest car, if not even more, it may have been a pole position for Verstappen but it was an encouraging result for the chasing pack.

However, that was one-lap pace with Red Bull’s race advantage expected to be greater.

Russell told the media, including, that Mercedes expect the RB20 to be as much as half a second up on their W15 in race trim.

“I think it [qualifying] was better than expected,” said the Briton, who will line up third on the Sakhir grid. “I think we all knew it was going to be very, very close between ourselves, Ferrari, Aston, McLaren, and Checo.

“And I think, the gap in qualifying was probably slightly closer to Max than we all expected.

“I think race pace is the important one. We’re expecting probably a half-second deficit. That’s what we thought after testing. We’ll see tomorrow, I think.”

Looking over at Verstappen, he continued: “You don’t agree?”

Verstappen incredulously replied with a laugh: “Half a second!”

“Is that too small?” said Russell.

“No, no,” replied the Dutchman, “I think it’s way too big. But if you say that now, then if it’s better tomorrow, then you can say, ‘Oh, it’s unbelievable, the car is unbelievable’.”

Russell: “Exactly. Under-promise, over-deliver!” recommends

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Russell hopes qualy improvement won’t ruin W15’s race pace

But having shown good pace in qualifying, the W15’s one-lap pace better than it was during testing, Russell hopes that doesn’t have a negative impact on the W15’s race pace.

That, he reckons after testing, was the second fastest on the grid behind Red Bull.

“I think what we saw in testing was our qualifying pace being a little bit offset and our race pace probably being next best to Max,” he said.

“Now we’ve improved the qualifying pace, we hope it hasn’t hindered our race pace.

“It’s uncharacteristically cold here in Bahrain at the moment. I think tomorrow it’s going to be about 16 degrees by the time we go to the race and we’re normally talking 30s or mid-30s here in Bahrain.

“There’s a lot of unexpected things to come. The soft tyre is performing well around this circuit, in the race maybe people will do two sets of the softs, two sets of the hards, a medium.

“But it’s the first race of the season and I think we’re all just excited to get going.”

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