Emilia-Romagna GP – For Max Verstappen, the threat is getting closer: “I had to attack hard throughout the race”

Emilia-Romagna GP – For Max Verstappen, the threat is getting closer: “I had to attack hard throughout the race”
Emilia-Romagna GP – For Max Verstappen, the threat is getting closer: “I had to attack hard throughout the race”

He was (a little) stressed, he (barely) shared his frustration on the radio, he (again) kindly sent his track engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to waste, but Max Verstappen (Red Bull) won again in Emilia-Romagna, securing its fifth victory in seven rounds contested this season. Positive conclusion to a first European weekend that was far from ideal.

Accustomed to resounding victories for two years, the Batavian feels more and more threatened by the competition. Powerless against Carlos Sainz and Ferrari in Australia (retirement), soundly beaten by Lando Norris and McLaren in Miami, he had to contain the stormy return at the end of the event of this same Briton this Sunday. Still not coming down from the cloud on which he has been floating for two weeks and his first success in F1, the latter would have loved to extend the honeymoon in Italy before arriving in Monaco next weekend. Even if it means pushing the triple world champion to his limits.

Stations of the Cross

Winner by 7 tenths of a second while he had a comfortable mattress at the start of the 57th lap (+7″4), Verstappen had difficulty keeping his hard tires fitted on the 24th lap in the correct operating window. , two laps after Norris stopped. He therefore quickly suffered from a loss of grip and a sudden drop in performance in the last 15 laps.

At the start of the race, he had already stood out by playing a little too much with the limits of the track, triggering a black and white flag synonymous with a final warning before a five-second penalty. “I had to attack throughout the race to try to create gapswhispered Verstappen in the parc ferme. With the medium tires, we showed solidity whereas with the hard tires, it was more complicated to manage. In the last laps, I was sliding really a lot and I saw Lando getting closer. I was going all out, but it was very difficult to resist, especially when the tires no longer worked. I tried not to make too many mistakes, and I’m very happy to win here.”

The advanced and very rapid degradation of his tires was not the only difficulty Verstappen faced in picking up a third success in four appearances at Imola where, this year, he carried his cross. During free practice at the start of the weekend, the Dutchman made a series of approximations and exits from the track, visiting the grass and the gravel trap on multiple occasions.

The work if not the loss

Fifth, seventh then sixth in practice, he raised the tone in qualifying by signing, thanks to the aspiration offered by Nico Hülkenberg (Haas), his eighth consecutive pole. Record co-held with Ayrton Senna (1988-1989). So everything is not to be thrown away this weekend: “Since Friday, we have continued to change a lot of things in the car. We didn’t have a lot of information before starting the race, and maybe that’s also why it was difficult to managing the hard tyres, but from where we started at the start of the weekend, it’s incredible to have pole and victory.”

To take his mind off things, Verstappen could count on his racing simulator, which he had installed in his motorhome in order to participate in the virtual 24 hours of the Nurburgring. A competition organized in parallel with the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, which he won with his Redline team. Proof of his attachment to sim racing, the Dutchman completed two relays, the first Saturday evening until midnight, the second Sunday morning, before letting his teammates finish the work. A guilty pleasure in a complicated weekend.

The party on the stage with the champagne of Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, GP Imola, Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

Leader of the general classification with 161 points – 48 points ahead of Charles Leclerc – Verstappen remains more than ever the man to take down in F1. But the tightening of performances among the top teams, and in particular the recent advent of McLaren, must encourage Red Bull and its driver champion to work again and again, under penalty of being caught up and then left behind. It has already been a few races since the paved road to success for the Austrian team has been strewn with pitfalls. “We have to get started”admitted Verstappen, who now knows what to expect to keep his crown.

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