Max Verstappen has been told his World Championship ambitions rest on Imola after a DNF-hit start to his 2022 season.
In the three races so far this year, Verstappen has crossed the finish line only once following reliability issues with the RB18.
What’s worse for Verstappen is he was twice in second position at the time of his retirement and has so far shown to be the only driver able to get close to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
At this early stage, the Red Bull man already trails Leclerc by 46 points and while there are probably 20 more races left, Verstappen has been warned by fellow Dutch racer Tom Coronel his performance in the next race at Imola will be crucial.
Speaking to motorsport.com, Coronel described Red Bull’s DNFs as “a small KO on the nose”.
“Especially because they competed for the top prizes last year and now they have the speed again to constantly drive for the podium,” he said.
“I think that’s great, just look at Mercedes. With a second place in the first race, a win and now again in second place [Verstappen] had the speed and that’s what it is about. But yes, that also means if you give away twice that amount of points, you have a serious problem.
“But in the end, you want to have a fight with two different teams. Like it was at the beginning of last year, that was of course mega. Then the dime could fall in a different direction every week with Mercedes and Red Bull. That’s what Formula 1 wants and for that, Imola just becomes crucial.
Gutted. Very frustrating to end another race like this as we were looking at an easy P2 😤
Congrats to @SChecoPerez on scoring another podium. 💪
We have to work hard the coming days to get on top of things and improve for Imola. pic.twitter.com/6hEUlkvwZK
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) April 10, 2022
“I thought Red Bull would already do something about the weight for Australia, but Imola is where the biggest upgrades come. So the question there is ‘are they there or not?'”
Coronel went on to suggest Verstappen’s 2021 Championship win has changed the 24-year-old’s mindset.
“Of course he is getting older and more mature,” he said. “But it also has to do with the world title he has in his pocket. Max and Jos (Verstappen) had the goal to become World Champion together and they succeeded. It sounds crazy, but the goal has been achieved.
“It’s about the way of thinking and certainly not about the hunger. When he’s in that car, he still has that killer instinct. After 30 years of motorsport I was taught that.
“There were moments when I thought ‘outside, that’s not possible’, but it was possible. That is also exactly why he is Max Verstappen and I am packing my camper today for a different racing level. Anyway, I mean to say the title gives a piece of rest.”
Coronel did, however, say anything is possible with Verstappen behind the wheel.
“With Verstappen, the world title has never been completely lost – last year he did the impossible,” he added.
“With other drivers I would perhaps say the chance has already been lost, but due to Verstappen’s attack mode I am not saying that yet. Giving up is not in his dictionary.”
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