Red Bull’s Max Verstappen heads into opening race as man to beat

Two-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen and his Red Bull team will be tough to beat at this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, his rivals said Thursday.

Both Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Mercedes’ George Russell said the defending champion’s team showed it had a distinct performance advantage in last week’s three-day test.

“It’s clear, they’ve had a strong start and both Red Bull and Max seem to be very strong,” said Leclerc, who finished second in last year’s title race behind the flying Dutchman.

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