Formula 1: Max Verstappen hides in Imola

Before the three fastest drivers receive their trophies after a Formula 1 race, they wait in a room. Dry your hair again with a towel, drink water, talk quietly – or shut up. Many entertainment scenes have already taken place here. On Sunday, after Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, second place Sergio Perez, winner Max Verstappen and Lando Norris sat next to each other on bar stools. Moments from the recently completed Grand Prix were lit up on a screen. Verstappen would have had every reason to laugh and joke with his colleagues. But he calmly and calmly received the next article in the program. He had just caused a painful loss to Ferrari, in all places on the track of the house in Imola, in front of thousands of fans.

“I did not expect it to go that way. But when a weekend like this ends, it is certainly incredible,” the 24-year-old later said. “Also how we handled this race: We did not. The Dutchman ran a lone race at the top as he was able to pull back at first – and above all left Charles Leclerc at Ferrari.

At the end of the day, Verstappen was 16.5 seconds ahead of his teammate Perez, with Norris crossing the finish line with his McLaren almost 35 seconds behind him. The world champion had once again proved his great steel nerves and his great talent. He experienced a perfect weekend with pole position, victory in the sprint, victory in the race, the fastest lap of the race and thus 34 of the 34 possible points of the World Championship. To ask?

Two weeks ago in Melbourne, Red Bull still had no chance against Ferrari

Of course, there was a big question: how did Red Bull do it? Two weeks ago in Melbourne, the team seemed hopeless against Ferrari. After that, sports director Helmut Marko revealed that they hoped for the effect of a technological improvement and weight reduction of the car. “That should bring us on par with Ferrari,” he said – and he was right.

Now Red Bull found the ideal configuration right away, it was faster and while Leclerc had more tire problems, Verstappen no longer had to deal with it. In addition, Marko said, it was essential “that we showed the courage to step up our improvement despite just one free practice session”. This constellation arose because the qualification took place on Friday after a training session and the sprint race over 21 laps took place on Saturday.

A disaster for Ferrari: The race ends for Carlos Sainz (back) on the first lap, his car has to be towed – and Charles Leclerc kills himself on the podium.

(Photo: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images / Imago)

Either way, the already exciting title fight has rekindled between the two pilots, who were already fighting each other so hard that Leclerc said these days: “It was me or him. That’s why we hated each other in a moment because it was too often not the best way ended. ” He has won two races, and Verstappen has now won two races. However, this balance sheet is put into perspective with a closer inspection.

At the opening race in Bahrain, Red Bull experienced a debacle when both cars were ahead and pulled short before the finish because the fuel supply from the tank to the engine was interrupted. Leclerc triumphed. In Saudi Arabia, Verstappen was able to win against Monegasque before the next disappointment in Australia: a defect stopped him again. Leclerc was elusive at the top, but second place would have brought important points. “We are miles behind,” Verstappen had said disappointed – only to hit even harder.

If Red Bull had no problems with credibility, Verstappen would surely run the World Cup

Ferrari’s dominance was very clear in advance, with Leclerc driving in its second-tier league with Perez 20 seconds behind. With this confidence, the Scuderia traveled towards Imolas. But now it was the red and blacks who experienced a disaster. Carlos Sainz was pushed off the track on the first lap. Leclerc was on the podium track in third place up to ten laps from the bottom, trying to catch Perez, he crashed into an obstacle very quickly and was lucky to finish sixth.

Max Verstappen in Formula 1: Still in a good mood on Saturday: Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in exchange for Max Verstappen after the sprint, which Monegasse finished second behind the Dutchman.

Still in a good mood on Saturday: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in exchange for Max Verstappen after the sprint, which Monegasque finished second behind the Dutchman.

(Photo: Andrej Isakovic / AFP)

“We did not have the speed for much more and I was very greedy,” he admitted. Leclerc showed nerves, Ferrari expectations were particularly high. He himself had previously warned not to exaggerate with all the emotions in Imola. In his analysis, however, team boss Mattia Binotto stressed: “When I heard him on the radio, he was very calm. He just made a mistake, it can always happen.” In the title race, Leclerc is no longer allowed to do so often – especially not with a competitor like Verstappen.

If Red Bull had not had problems with the reliability of the technology, the reigning champion would probably have run the World Cup. Before the weekend he was still fifth – 46 points behind leader Leclerc (71). Verstappen has reduced this difference to 27 points. Leclerc is in the lead with 86 points, Verstappen (59) is now hiding behind. And this despite two total failures.

When his car does not let down, Verstappen is hard to beat. This increases the pressure on Ferrari to deliver with a winning combination of car and driver. “The Red Bulls are very strong and they were stronger than us this weekend. “We have to understand this and we have to react,” Leclerc said. “But I have a feeling it depends on the track which of us will finish ahead.” What Red Bull helped recently, Ferrari does not want to use in shape until the next Grand Prix. Except for some new parts, there should not be any major changes to the car. In any case, no one can fall behind empirical values: Formula 1 has never driven in Miami.

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