Max Verstappen said he can not even think about the title right now after a second retirement from P2 of the season in Australia.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Verstappen found themselves as the front-runners again as Formula 1 made its return to Albert Park, but unlike the previous rounds in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, Leclerc was looking comfortable, surviving a couple of Safety Car restarts and restoring a healthy gap over Verstappen from there.
So, Verstappen looked a safe bet for P2 as Leclerc went on to win, that was before he pulled his RB18 over to the side of the track on Lap 39.
Just like Bahrain then, Verstappen had retired when P2 seemed in the bag, meaning that is now 36 points lost in three races.
He is now 46 points behind Leclerc in the Drivers’ standings, left to rue another DNF which was simply “not acceptable”.
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Asked by Sky F1 how important that DNF will be in the context of his season, Verstappen replied: “Well we are already miles behind, so I don’t really even want to think about the Championship battle at the moment.
“I think it’s more important to finish races.
“Of course today was in general just a bad day again, and not really having the pace or even managing my tyres, trying to just bring it to the end because it looked like quite an easy P2 anyway and I knew that I could not fight Charles, so there was no point to try and put pressure on him.
“But yeah, we didn’t even finish the race so it’s pretty frustrating and not acceptable.”
Verstappen admitted that he knew there was a problem pre-race with his Red Bull, leaving a question mark over his ability to finish the race.
And ultimately his RB18 did not have enough within to make the chequered flag, the engine appearing to shut down on Verstappen, who reported that he could “smell some weird fluid”.
But if Red Bull want to be title contenders, then Verstappen stressed that such reliability woes can not happen.
“I mean I knew there was a problem, so it was always going to be a question mark of finishing the race,” he said of the pre-race discovery.
“But these kind of things, if you want to fight for the title, it cannot happen.”
Asked if it was the same problem as Bahrain, Verstappen replied: “I don’t know.
“I stopped the car but they have to get the car back and investigate.”
'Frustrating and unacceptable' race for Verstappen
Max Verstappen had his second retirement in three races and he wasn't happy, while Sergio Perez took P2 in Melbourne.