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Max Verstappen

Verstappen contradicts Horner as grid penalty looms

Max Verstappen has gone against comments made by Red Bull boss Christian Horner.

Verstappen Spain
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To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen has appeared to contradict Christian Horner's suggestions that a closer fight in the 2024 F1 season is "normal."

After winning the Spanish Grand Prix last time out for his seventh win from 10 races to start the year, Red Bull team principal Horner explained that he felt it was "normal" for the field to be eating into Red Bull's huge advantage from last season.

Last term, the team won 21 of 22 races, including 19 for Verstappen as both set a host of F1 records, including most points, most wins, most laps led and biggest gap to second place in the championship in the single-most dominant season by a driver in F1 history. 

Although he has won 70% of the races in 2024, Verstappen and Red Bull are under threat from McLaren and Ferrari, whilst Mercedes is also moving closer to the front after recent upgrades.

When presented with Horner's comments, Verstappen rejected the notion of Red Bull's decreasing gap being expected.

"In general, everyone has moved closer and of course last year we had a hugely dominant season, even until the last race," he told media including RacingNews365. 

"At the moment it's a bit more difficult and I think we just have to be honest about that. We can say, 'It's normal', but I don't think it's normal.

"We always want to be better and that's why I bring it up. I can say we won and it's fine, but that's not how I see it. 

"We have to keep working hard. If we think this is normal, people are going to overtake us. I'm always very straightforward and critical because I always want to improve. 

"That should also be everyone's approach."

"I try to push for upgrades to come faster and I am allowed to be critical. If I say, 'It's all fine', that I will see everyone again next Thursday, it won't go well for long."

The three-time F1 champion, meanwhile, is on the verge of a grid penalty after inspections of his damaged power unit from Canada reportedly proved it is irreparable. 

Verstappen pitted during FP2 in Montreal with smoke coming from the rear of the car as the unit was shipped to Japan for checks by Honda. 

Honda is believed to have told Red Bull the unit cannot be repaired, with Verstappen already onto his fourth internal combustion engine of the season.

Drivers are allowed four for the season, meaning Verstappen now has three in his pool for the rest of the campaign. 

It means a grid penalty is likely at some point this season, with Spa-Francorchamps a likely contender, although Verstappen would not be drawn on the situation.

Initially, Verstappen would incur a 10-place grid drop for the use of a fifth ICE, with five places thereafter if he takes a sixth and so on. 

"At the time, it was not looking great, not necessarily the engine itself, but just the situation," he explained. 

"I'm just waiting to see what comes out of it."

When asked where a potential grid penalty would be taken, Verstappen simply replied: "I am not going to tell you."

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