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Red Bull Racing

Why Verstappen and Red Bull face crucial weeks ahead

The upcoming Canadian and Spanish rounds of the F1 championship will be key for Red Bull - here is why.

Verstappen race Monaco
Analysis
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

At the beginning of the season, Max Verstappen and Red Bull seemed to have F1 in a stranglehold. 

After dominating 2023, the vice-like grip on the championship continued into the current campaign with commanding Verstappen victories in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Japan and China.

In three of the opening four rounds, Sergio Perez followed his team-mate home for one-two finishes, so satisfaction prevailed at Red Bull.

Now, however, the mood has shifted. McLaren and Ferrari have taken big steps forward in recent weeks with substantial updates to their respective packages.

That assault in the all-conquering RB20 started in Florida, where Verstappen was not fully at ease with the Red Bull and was beaten on track by Lando Norris. The safety car intervention worked out well for the McLaren driver, but the 24-year-old was the faster driver all weekend.

Verstappen hit back by taking victory at the subsequent round, in Imola, but Norris ran him close in the closing laps.

Ultimately, the Briton fell just seven-tenths of a second short. Red Bull had struggled throughout the weekend, and Verstappen only narrowly took pole position on the Saturday, but it confirmed that McLaren can challenge Red Bull anywhere. 

This was also evident at the Monaco Grand Prix. Verstappen was off the pace, and had to abort his final push lap in qualifying, preventing him from being in and amongst the action at the front. It left Charles Leclerc to comfortably take a home win, with the Dutchman only able to finish in sixth.

Canada

The answer in Monte Carlo was simple: the RB20 cannot handle kerbs and bumps. This caused the Red Bulls to lose a lot of time around the tricky and twisty streets of the principality.

Beyond that, McLaren and Ferrari appear closer still. Miami, Imola and Monaco are three different circuits and at each Red Bull found itself under pressure from one or both teams.

The poor weekend in Monaco has meant the gap between Verstappen and Leclerc has shrunk to 31 points in the drivers' championship standings. 

Partly for this reason, the coming races will be to be crucial. The chasing pack smells blood, but Red Bull, meanwhile, has something to prove. For three weekends in a row now, Verstappen has complained about the RB20's behaviour.

The Canadian and Spanish rounds could prove to be very important litmus tests for Red Bull. In Montreal, Verstappen will face a semi-street circuit, where kerbs and bumps will once again play a significant role. There is new asphalt, however, which may play a role in terms of bumps, but the use of curbs is going to be key.

If Red Bull does indeed have a "fundamental problem" with kerbs and bumps, as Verstappen indicated in Monaco, then the Canadian Grand Prix could also be tough weekend for the team.

Should that be the case, you can already fill in that Red Bull will also have an incredibly difficult time at circuits like Singapore, Baku and Austin - not a nice prospect for a team that could find itself engaged in an close title fight.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Traditional circuits

As worrying as it sounds, it is not all doom and gloom for the Milton Keynes outfit, for it still possesses two key advantages: traditional circuits and the 'Max factor'. 

After the Canadian Grand Prix, the F1 circus travels to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix, at the home of a more conventional circuit - exactly the kind at which Red Bull has dominated at of late.

For example, Verstappen prevailed all weekend in Japan, another traditional circuit. And when it does get close, the 26-year-old often makes the difference.

Red Bull's waining supremacy is a developing and dynamic narrative with plenty more twists to come. 

Don't be surprised if Red Bull leaves Canada with doubts, before teaching the competition a lesson in Barcelona. The beauty of the current pecking order is that the role of favourite seems to be shifting weekend-to-weekend.

Red Bull will want a statement result in the coming weeks, with recent news centred on its struggles and relatively underwhelming form.

If that is not possible in Canada, it will be in Barcelona. A flawless weekend is exactly what Red Bull and Verstappen need, for the leads in both championships are quickly fading...

Will Red Bull's recent difficulties continue in Montreal, or will it enjoy a return to its usual form? Let us know by voting below in the latest RacingNews365 poll.

Also interesting:

Is Ocon's future now in danger after the incident in Monaco? And has the track become too outdated for F1? In the latest episode of the RacingNews365.com podcast, Ian Parkes, Samuel Coop and Nick Golding look back at last weekend's Monaco Grand Prix. Tune in below!

Rather watch than listen to the podcast? Click here.

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