Giedo van der Garde has claimed Max Verstappen’s back-to-back retirements could be due to Honda prioritising engine performance over reliability in their pursuit of Mercedes.
Verstappen’s last remaining embers of hope in the 2020 World Championship have been extinguished by DNFs in the Italian and Tuscan Grand Prix, leaving the Red Bull driver an insurmountable 80 points behind Lewis Hamilton.
At Monza, his engine overheated, while at Mugello, a problem emerged on the grid that required work from the mechanics. When the race began, the Dutchman immediately reported a loss of power and his race was over on the first lap when he was shunted off in a multi-car collision.
Not that Verstappen would have gone much further, for he said afterwards: “It seems it was the same problem as in Monza. I would have dropped out anyway.”
Former F1 driver Van der Garde, a compatriot of Verstappen, thinks Honda may have sacrificed some of their engine reliability in the quest to catch up with the superior speed of their Mercedes rival.
“I don’t know what else could be the cause of this,” said the 35-year-old, who raced in F1 for Caterham in 2013, quoted by the Dutch version of Motorsport.com.
“Honda has really made progress. They have more power than last year, that is clearly visible, they are now really participating. Only yes, the reliability is not worldly.”
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) September 13, 2020
Van der Garde also completely understands Verstappen’s frustration at being let down by his machinery.
“They just need to get things done better, because this way is of course dramatic,” he added.
“You can fight whatever you want and drive the b*lls out of your pants, but if you fall out like that it will of course not work. You lose so many points with this. In this way, the Championship is quickly a lost cause.”
As for Verstappen’s team-mate Alex Albon, Van der Garde believes his P3 finish in Tuscany was exactly what he needed.
“I think he took it at the right time because he was under pressure within the team,” said Van der Garde. “I hope this can be a boost for him for the rest of the season.
“I do think he has reasonably good racing capacities. Qualifying is still not good, he still has to improve there. But he certainly showed (at Mugello) he can race. So this podium place was a nice boost for him.”