Ex-F1 champion reveals why Charles Leclerc will be much closer to Max Verstappen in Saudi Arabia

Carlos Sainz finished fourth in Bahrain whilst Charles Leclerc retired after running in third.

Ex-Formula 1 driver Damon Hill has predicted a Ferrari comeback this weekend at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, after the Italians endured a miserable start to the season in Bahrain.

Ferrari were left shocked at the Bahrain International Circuit, after the team were both unable to challenge Red Bull, and once again lacked reliability.

The Italians entered 2023 confident that they’d solved and fixed the power unit-based reliability issues that tormented them last season, only for Charles Leclerc to retire from third due to an engine failure.

Hill is certainly not expecting the same to happen at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, though, and has tipped the Maranello-based team to be “all over the back” of Red Bull this weekend.

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“It’s going to be different [to Bahrain],” Hill told the F1 Nation podcast.

“We’re going to realise Ferrari have got pace, they have got the ability to race and they’ll be all over the back of the Red Bulls with the DRS zones and everything. It’s going to be great.

“A lot of people if not all of the people we spoke to after Bahrain – [Aston Martin team principal] Mike Krack included, Adrian Newey called it a sample of one – [agreed that] Bahrain is not a typical circuit.

“It’s extraordinarily abrasive and the combination of corners is very tight and twisty, I can’t think of another circuit it compares to really [for] high rear-tyre deg.

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“We’re going now to a circuit which has got very different characteristics and demands on the car, so the order will not necessarily be exactly as it was in Bahrain.”

With this weekend’s circuit in Jeddah being drastically different to the opening round in Bahrain, Hill believes the second round of the championship will prove if “there’s any chink in the armour for Red Bull”.

The Austrians were completely dominant in Bahrain, with the likelihood being that the entire paddock will view Red Bull as likely champions if they are just as imperious this weekend.

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“I think what’s going to be really important as an indicator for how the season will pan out is going from Bahrain to Saudi, which is a different type of circuit,” Hill explained.

“It is going to give a pointer as to whether there’s any chink in the armour for Red Bull, whether it actually is track specific; the performance of maybe Ferrari will be much more competitive and a circuit with less tyre deg, certainly in race conditions, and also their horsepower as well.

“Aston Martin have now kind of created an expectation that they’re going to be brilliant at every event, so they are going to find out that you’ve got to keep it up if you’re going to do well.”