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Max Verstappen

The data behind Verstappen's terrible day at Imola

Max Verstappen struggled over one-lap and long distance on the opening day at Imola, as highlighted by the crucial data.

Verstappen Imola
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

"Worse than today couldn't be possible." Those were the words of Max Verstappen at the end of the opening day of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. The Dutchman struggled with his updated RB20, ending the first two practice sessions in fifth and seventh. 

Balance was Red Bull's Achilles' heel, as Verstappen lacked confidence and ended up in the gravel several times. On softs the rear end was too loose, on mediums Verstappen had understeer.

Verstappen lacking confidence has worried Dr. Helmut Marko. "Both drivers have roughly the same problems, but battles with the rear have been more common," said the Red Bull advisor to Motorsport-Magazin. 

"What worries me more is that Verstappen has problems with it. That means he can't get control of it. And if Verstappen can't do that, something is well wrong."

But are the lap times really that bad? If you look at the qualifying runs, it's not all doom and gloom. Verstappen did end second practice half a second behind Charles Leclerc, but actually loses all that time in the second sector. 

In contrast, Verstappen was very fast in the first sector, partly because the RB20 was not bouncing then. Red Bull should be able to fix that, you would imagine.

Overall, much is made of Leclerc's fast lap time, but Lando Norris should not be forgotten in this story. The Briton made a mistake at the final corner and was unable to finish his qualifying run as a result, although he was a lot faster than Leclerc up to that point...

Dramatic longrun

The concerns at Red Bull, however, stem mainly from the long runs, and for good reason. To say the least, Verstappen and Perez's race simulations were not positive. The mediums simply did not seem to work, which is reflected in the lap times. 

Compared to Leclerc, who was a good reference with his updated Ferrari, Verstappen was on average about eight-tenths slower on the same tyre. Perhaps Red Bull had more fuel in the car, but the disappointed reactions of Verstappen and Marko suggested otherwise.

What will worry Verstappen even more is McLaren's speed. Oscar Piastri drove his long run on the hard tyre and was about as fast as Leclerc, who thus drove on softer rubber. Norris also joined the debates with a mighty long run on mediums. 

For fifteen laps, the Brit drove eerily consistent lap times that Verstappen was nowhere near able to match. Leclerc and the strong Piastri were a bit faster than Norris here and there, but that difference remained marginal. 

Red Bull thus has a lot of homework to do if they want to fight with Ferrari and McLaren. As mentioned above, you have to keep a lid on fuel, but you cannot ignore after Verstappen's reaction and the lap times that the Dutchman had a dramatic day. 

The upside is that Red Bull has a whole night to make adjustments. The bright minds at the Milton Keynes-based team have turned a tenuous situation around more than once this season, and that is required again...

View the longrun of Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris and Piastri at Imola below! Verstappen's two slower lap times followed after a slip in the gravel.

Longrun second free practice Imola

1. 1:21.773 1:20.869 1:20.996 1:20.960
2. 1:21.323 1:21.033 1:21.068 1:20.862
3. 1:28.596 1:20.196 1:20.813 1:20.654
4. 1:26.326 1:26.809 1:20.740 1:20.337
5. 1:20.606 1:20.023 1:20.595 1:20.246
6. 1:21.425 1:20.512 1:20.810 1:20.964
7. 1:21.390 1:20.631 1:20.643 1:25.501
8. 1:21.495 1:23.434 1:20.369 1:20.791
9. 1:20.654 1:20.541 1:21.032
10. 1:21.277 1:20.839 1:20.575
11. 1:23.828 1:20.570 1:20.453
12. 1:21.433 1:20.936
13. 1:20.874
14. 1:21.454
15. 1:21.462

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