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BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during day one of F1 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit on February 21, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202402210917 // Usage for editorial use only //

Davidson: I see Red Bull clearly ahead with Max in the car

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN - FEBRUARY 21: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 on track during day one of F1 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit on February 21, 2024 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202402210917 // Usage for editorial use only //

Anthony Davidson has Red Bull “clearly ahead” of the Formula 1 pecking order after three days of 2024 preseason testing at Bahrain International Circuit this past week, and he is not alone!

Verstappen topped the timesheets at the end of Day 1 by an eye-watering 1.1 seconds gap to the next best in the ominously efficient and rapid Red Bull RB20. But throughout, in his hands the new masterpiece from Adrian Newey and his design team, has everyone all but throwing in the towel.

F1’s most experienced driver Fernando Alonso, was brutally honest when he stated that “19 drivers know Max will be world champion” and Davidson is not one to differ.

Spare a thought for the F1TV pundits, which ex-F1 driver Davidson is part of, who are understandably expected to ‘PR’ the series as much as possible, but with the glimpses seen in Bahrain Testing there is reason to be concerned. Verstappen dominance looms yet again, perhaps even more so than ever before with the RB20.

Rather, put this way, everyone in the world of F1 except Red Bull (!) should be worried that the Bulls don’t canter off into the distance and render the last half of the 2024 F1 season a ‘dead rubber’ as they did last year.

Asked for his pecking order ahead of the season-opening Bahrain GP, Davidson called it “Red Bull are clearly ahead, particularly like we saw on day one with Max in the car. It looked pretty effortless when they put new tyres on. So I would see them clear of the field.”

What about the Best of the Rest chasing the Bulls?

ferrari bahrain f1 testing 2024 leclerc action

Davidson ventured: “On race pace, I’m going to put Mercedes second. In terms of qualifying it would probably be Ferrari second, but in race pace I am seeing good qualities from that Mercedes (W15) on the longer runs.

“Lewis [Hamilton] looked good behind the wheel yesterday on the longer runs and George [Russell] as well before that on day one. It’s a marked difference from the car in how it performs from what I can see at least. So I’d say on race pace it’s Mercedes closely followed by Ferrari and McLaren.

“Then I’d put VCARB behind McLaren before Aston Martin. I think RB could be the surprise of the field, that’s my gut feeling. Not [as the] Aston Martin of last year. I’m not seeing the performance of Aston from last year here, that was a real standout,” added Davidson.

Hamilton: We will try to close the gap to the Red Bull somehow

russell verstappen f1 bahrain testing

While Russell ended testing P2, thanks to a run on C4 Pirelli softs tyres which RBR did not bother to run, sticking to the harder mediums, Hamilton is also under no illusion: “Red Bull clearly are out in the distance.”

As for his commitment to Mercedes now that his future (2025) lies with Ferrari, Hamilton declared: “This chapter is still not finished. I am still 100% focused on finishing on a high with this team and have absolute faith in everything going on in the team. We will try to close the gap to the Red Bull somehow.”

All will be revealed when the 2024 F1 cars are run fully-blown, with all-out power, softest rubber available to all and low-fueled for those final runs in Q3 of Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying next Friday at Sakhir.

However, one gets the feeling that if you do not like Max Verstappen, best find another sport for the next season or two, if not the next entire decade!

Big Question: How far ahead are Red Bull to the chasing F1 pack?