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Red Bull says F1 advantage “distorted” but Mercedes not convinced

Red Bull insists the advantage it holds over the rest of the Formula 1 field was “distorted” at the Bahrain Grand Prix, but rival Mercedes is not so sure.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen produced a dominant performance to win the season-opening race last Saturday, finishing 22.4 seconds ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez and 25.1 seconds clear of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

The scale of Red Bull’s race-pace advantage has served as a blow to the opposition who hoped that the closeness of qualifying had pointed to a more compact field this year.

PLUS: The laps that underpinned Verstappen's Bahrain dominance

But Red Bull team principal Christian Horner thinks that Bahrain did not offer a clear picture of things because his team was on a different tyre strategy to the opposition.

The allocation it had for the race meant it used a soft tyre for the final stint, rather than the hard everyone else had, and he thinks that exaggerated the gaps at an event that was cooler than normal.

“You can't read too much into a single event, because of the nature of the circuit, the temperature, and the fact that we are able to carry over a soft tyre into the race,” explained Horner.

“We were surprised that others didn't do [that]. It sort of distorted, perhaps, the back-end of the stint. But nonetheless, it was a dominant display and great to get that maximum score.”

But despite Horner thinking that things are closer than they appear, leading competitors have a different opinion.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: “I think Max is not in a different league, but is in a different galaxy. The performance is extraordinary.”

Asked if he felt that pointed to Red Bull winning all the races, Wolff said: “Unfortunately yes. You just need to just acknowledge his performance levels are really very strong.”

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Toto Wolff, Team Principal and CEO, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Horner does not agree that Red Bull is so far ahead, and he reckons that the picture from Bahrain actually points to a bigger threat to his team.

“I'm sorry that it wasn't a more entertaining race for you, but that is the result of the team doing its job and producing an incredible car,” he said.

“We have a sample of one race and I have the feeling that the field is going to concertina this year. So I don't think you can take anything for granted out of this one race on a specific surface, specific conditions.

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“I've been in this business too long to draw too many conclusions from a single race. It's a fantastic start and we enjoy this moment.

“But it's a long season, many different venues, different challenges, different conditions. And what we saw in the testing is things are closer.

“We got it right this weekend. We took the right tyres into the race. We executed a perfect race with both cars and we got a great finish. But I think that it will converge.”

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