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Why Red Bull think Verstappen's superiority is back

After having fallen 46 points behind Charles Leclerc in the 2022 title race, a win at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix saw Max Verstappen close that gap and lay down a marker for the rest of the season.

Red Bull's Helmut Marko says Max Verstappen has rediscovered his superiority, after a dominant Emilia Romagna Grand Prix weekend saw him claw back some of his points deficit to championship leader Charles Leclerc. Following two mechanical retirements in the first three races of 2022, Verstappen had fallen 46 points behind Leclerc. But the Dutchman's lights-to-flag victory at Imola, combined with Leclerc only managing sixth place after a spin, saw the points deficit narrow to 27, and Marko says his man's superiority has returned after a trying start to the season. "Max drove a superior race with incredible confidence," Marko told Sport1 . "He got the fastest lap, pole, victory in the Sprint, [and] led from start to finish [in the Grand Prix]. I don't know if this combination ever existed. "I don't want to say that he was restless before, but now the superiority is back."

Verstappen's win a "necessary answer" to earlier woes

Red Bull's joy was magnified by Verstappen's teammate Sergio Perez coming home in second place for the drinks-backed squad's first 1-2 finish since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix. After mechanical failures for both drivers over the first three races, Marko said Red Bull's dominant Imola weekend had come at the right time. "It was the necessary answer to the failures in Bahrain and Australia," said Marko. "We knew we had the speed. In terms of numbers, we seemed a long way behind Ferrari, but we always knew we could close the gap. "Everything worked at Imola and Ferrari makes mistakes under pressure."

Red Bull plan to keep pushing Ferrari "to the limit"

Leclerc fell to sixth at Imola after a spin at the Variante Alta chicane while lying third, and Marko said the pressure of driving for Ferrari at the F1 circuit closest to their Maranello base may have got to the Monegasque. "He doesn't have a championship title yet," Marko said of Leclerc. "The pressure is greater [at Ferrari] anyway, even more so at the home race. "But it's very tight. Ferrari are strong and we have to keep working at full power, but of course, we can now be more optimistic again. "If we continue to ensure that Ferrari have to go to the limit, things won't always run smoothly for them either."

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