Even in the absence of Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen thinks Mercedes is the favorite to win the Sakhir Grand Prix.

The alternative layout of the Bahrain circuit is not in favor of Red Bull Racing.

"Lewis is not there, but Valtteri Bottas and George Russell are and they are driving the fastest car on the field," Verstappen said at a press conference in Bahrain on Thursday.

Williams driver Russell replaces the corona virus infected Hamilton during the penultimate race of the year.

"It will certainly not be an easy weekend," said Verstappen.

"Cars with more power have the advantage on this circuit."

On Sunday, Verstappen finished second behind Hamilton on the Bahrain International Circuit.

This weekend the same track will be used, but this time on a shorter layout with more straights.

Mercedes and Racing Point will probably look good with their high top speed.

See also: Five questions about GP Sakhir: 'Without Hamilton, Verstappen has a big chance'

Verstappen advises Russell to enjoy it

That it is possible to win directly for a new team in your first race, as Verstappen proved on his debut for Red Bull in 2016 when he won the GP of Spain immediately after his switch from Toro Rosso.

As an experience expert, De Limburger was asked for advice for Russell.

"It really was a day and night difference between Red Bull and Toro Rosso, in the positive sense of the word," said Verstappen.

"People have high expectations, but you shouldn't pay too much attention to that. Above all, you should enjoy the opportunity."

Verstappen may not only compete with Bottas for the win in Bahrain, but also for second place in the World Cup position.

With two races to go, the difference is twelve points in favor of the Finn.

"Maybe it is still possible, but then I have to be lucky", said Verstappen.

"Too bad I dropped out four times this year, otherwise I would have been second long ago."

Start times GP Sakhir

  • Friday 2.30 pm: First free practice

  • Friday 6.30 pm: Second free practice

  • Saturday 3 pm: Third free practice

  • Saturday 6 pm: Qualification

  • Sunday 6.10 pm: Race