Theory on Red Bull’s Imola struggles emerge with possible ‘hangover’ effect

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen and Red Bull practice pit stop

Max Verstappen and Red Bull practice pit stop

Frustrated with the performance of his RB20 around the Imola circuit in practice, Damon Hill wonders if Max Verstappen’s troubles were the result of Red Bull’s rivals “coming” for them.

Max Verstappen had an incident and complaint-fueled day out at the Imola circuit on Friday as the reigning World Champion recorded several off-track moments and voiced his frustrations to his stand-in race engineer Tom Hart.

Damon Hill: Is that what we are seeing now?

From complaining about a lack of grip to “no f***ing front” to Lewis Hamilton’s driving, Verstappen cut a frustrated figure as he finished Friday’s running down in seventh place, 0.541s down on Charles Leclerc.

For the driver who admits he doesn’t want to fight, he wants to win by 20 seconds, it was not a good day.

But with McLaren having won last time out in Miami and Charles Leclerc setting the pace in both of Friday’s practice sessions in his upgraded Ferrari SF-24, Hill wonders if Verstappen and Red Bull’s troubles are a consequence of their rivals closing the gap.

“The other teams are catching up. That is definitely the case,” the 1996 World Champion told Sky F1.

“The comfortable advantage that Max has enjoyed over the last couple of seasons…. it is inevitable that people will close the gap. When you are uncomfortable with the pace, it is relative.

“If you’ve got a two or three-tenths advantage over everyone, then you don’t have to push the car.

“Is that what we are seeing now? Is Max having to get more out of the car than he can, as a result of other people closing up?

“Actually are you starting to see the ultimate performance of the Red Bull, and they are scratching their heads to find more?”

He added: “The competition is definitely coming.”

Max Verstappen’s practice woes

👉What happened to Max Verstappen? Imola troubles explained after Friday horror show

👉Max Verstappen takes frustration out on Lewis Hamilton in FP2 incident at Imola

A bad day or a hangover from Miami?

His fellow pundit Naomi Schiff believes it could be a “hangover” from the Miami Grand Prix where Verstappen lost a straight fight against Lando Norris after a Safety Car restart.

Gifted a free pit stop by the timing of the Safety Car, Norris lined up ahead of Verstappen for the restart and immediately pulled away from the championship leader.

He took the chequered flag seven seconds ahead of Verstappen who conceded the McLaren was faster on the day.

“There have been a lot of complaints about grip, about feeling and understanding of the car,” said Schiff.

“I wonder how much of it is just a bad day, or if it’s a hangover from Miami and the struggles they had there.

“Just to see Lando run away from Max with an eight-second gap… yes, there was talk of potential damage to the floor from hitting the bollard.

“Besides that, the pace was tight. I want to say that I hope, for them, that they figure it out for tomorrow [qualifying]. But it’s quite nice to see someone else at the front, for a change.”

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