Max Verstappen has insisted Red Bull cannot afford to keep having reliability issues if they are to sustain a World Championship challenge next year.
The Dutchman’s hopes of staying in the fight with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas this season have been hit hardest by four retirements, three of which occurred in the trio of races that took place in Italy.
Most recently, Verstappen suffered a DNF when looking booked for second position at Imola, his Red Bull sustaining a puncture before spinning off into the gravel.
In contrast, Hamilton’s only failure to finish a race for Mercedes in the last four seasons came at the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix and he has built an 85-point lead over Bottas in the standings this time around.
Hamilton will be crowned a seven-time World Champion at this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix unless Bottas outscores him by eight points or more.
Asked in an interview with Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz whether Red Bull need to address their reliability troubles for the 2021 campaign, Verstappen said: “If you’re fighting for the Championship these things can’t happen, I think we all know that. It’s been a bit unfortunate this season with that.
“What can you do about it? I think take some lessons and understand.
“The tyre failure [at Imola] I don’t think there was anything we could do about that. Of course, the engine problems we had, I think already we took a lot of measures on that and learned a lot.
“But for sure in a Championship season you can’t have any [retirements]. Hopefully next year we will be in a position like that, but I still think it will be hard to beat Mercedes.”
Nevertheless, the 23-year-old is still reasonably content with a campaign in which he has frequently shared the podium with Hamilton and Bottas and won the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone.
“The retirements are not great but Mercedes are so dominant this season, so the most realistic place you are in is third all the time,” said Verstappen. “We’ve basically done that, or even better in some races, so I can’t complain about that.
“You don’t want to be walking around frustrated trying to get results which are not possible, so that’s what I’m trying to do – just keep pushing myself and trying to get the best possible result that’s within the car.
“I know I can’t fight for the Championship this year in general, even though sometimes it looked like we were a bit closer, but then with the retirements we had that was very quickly out of the picture.
“At Imola, finally I was a bit closer and could be within two tenths of them, so then you are really motivated to stay with them and actually pass a car, whereas normally they are running away from me three or four tenths a lap, so I’m a bit in no man’s land which is not what you want.
“I prefer to be the one having the nice romantic dinner instead of the third wheel.”