Max Verstappen doesn’t expect this weekend’s Sakhir F1 Grand Prix to be any easier despite Lewis Hamilton being absent after testing positive for COVID-19.

The seven-time F1 champion has been replaced by George Russell for this weekend’s race in Bahrain.

Hamilton has won 11 of the 15 races in 2020, including the last five in the row.

Despite Hamilton’s absence, the Dutchman doesn’t believe it will be any easier for Red Bull in Sakhir due to the performance advantage Mercedes currently has over the rest of the field.

“Well, there is no Lewis but there is Valtteri and George driving the fastest car in the field,” Verstappen said. “It will still be very tough and not easy, especially with the layout we have. Lap times will be very close, also with the cars behind us from last week so I don’t expect it to be very easy out there.”

This weekend’s race in Bahrain sees F1 race on its outer circuit, which is predominately made up of long straights.

Red Bull endured its toughest weekend at Monza - a track made up of long straights - with Verstappen qualifying fifth nearly a second off pole.

When asked about Red Bull’s chances this weekend, Verstappen said: “I really hope it’s not going to be like Monza but we have to wait and see. The track is a bit different compared to Monza. There are a few corners where you can make a bit more of a difference. Monza you run really low downforce, everyone runs really low downforce so you lack on the straights.

“Here, there will be a bit of difference in terms of downforce levels but let’s hope and pray it’s going to be better.”

Verstappen is also in a battle for second in the drivers’ championship, trailing Bottas by 12 points.

With four retirements to his name in 2020, the Dutchman believes second would have been secured already had Red Bull enjoyed better reliability.

“Maybe, I don’t know,” Verstappen added. “Need quite a bit of luck for that as well. It’s a bit of a shame that we had retired four times, otherwise, P2 would have been quite easily there. It is what it is.”