Button baffled by Russell as Mercedes star told there will be ‘fights’

Jenson Button strongly disagrees with George Russell’s assertion that the F1 championship is already “sewn up” and that Red Bull will win every race this season. Russell finished seventh at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix in his underperforming Mercedes and is already resigned to another year of overwhelming Red Bull dominance. 

Red Bull’s searing pace was ominous at the Sakhir circuit as reigning champion Max Verstappen took the chequered flag with ease. Verstappen finished 12 seconds clear of his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, but crucially over half a minute ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso in third place. 

Russell and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes W14 cars were nearly a second-per-lap slower than Verstappen’s Red Bull, such is the chasm in performance between the 2021 championship rivals. And Russell effectively waved the white flag just one race into the season when he conceded that Red Bull are already looking unstoppable.

But 2009 F1 Drivers’ champion Button is baffled by the air of resignation already filling the paddock, and is convinced Red Bull will face challenges throughout the 23-race season.

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He said: “I know that a lot of drivers have said, ‘It’s going to be an easy championship for Red Bull and Max’, but how can you say that? We’ve only tested at one track. We’ve only raced at one track.

“And we all know that Bahrain is very unique in the way that the cars work there. It’s a heavy braking, traction circuit, it’s not so much about high-speed. So we can’t say that. I think we’ll understand a bit more after Saudi, which is more of a fast-flowing track. And also when we get the European races.

“So no, it’s not a walk in the park for Red Bull and Max. It’s a great start to the season and very different to what they had last year. But I still think we’re going to have some very, very close fights.

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“I don’t think it’s going to be a straightforward win for Red Bull and Max. But I loved the first race. I thought it was action-packed and that’s what I look for. I look for great racing, and great fights.”

A deflated Russell said after his P7 finish in Bahrain: “Red Bull have got this championship sewn up – I don’t think anybody is going to be fighting with them this year. I expect them to – or they should – win every single race this season.”

And Russell’s Mercedes boss Toto Wolff agreed that Red Bull will win every race this year as he lamented one of the ‘worst days of his racing career.’

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