Red Bull team boss Christian Horner praised Mercedes stand-in driver George Russell for doing a “solid job” in Bahrain practice on his first day in the world championship-winning car.
Russell, who is debuting for the team in place of Lewis Hamilton - who is self-isolating after contracting Covid-19 - looked impressive as he topped both practice sessions around Bahrain’s fast Outer Circuit.
The British driver, who usually races for Williams, conceded his times may have been flattering but Horner said: “George has done a very solid job. I mean, that’s impressive to top both sessions.”
There is plenty of work left to do as the teams get to grips with the new oval-like circuit, which follows a much shorter layout around the same venue where the teams competed in the Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend.
Hamilton took an imperious victory for Mercedes in that event, prior to his positive Covid test, but it appears things could be a little closer this weekend on a track that requires less downforce and more power.
Horner revealed his team may have got Mercedes rattled, telling Sky Sports F1: “We think we’re pretty racy. I got a text off [Mercedes boss] Toto [Wolff], I never get texts off him, and he just said ‘you guys look a bit quick in race trim.’
“It’s a tricky little track and it’s very different to last weekend’s challenge. Without the benefit of a bunch of analysis, I’d say they look quicker over a lap than us but we look better on the long runs.
“The balance shift is quite big, it seems, between the compounds of tyres and certainly between the short runs and the long runs, because there are no long corners putting a lot of energy into the tyres
“The tyres are working quite differently even though they are the same compound as they were a week ago, so that’s going to give the engineers a bit to think about.”
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