Max Verstappen has revealed that he is not expecting to beat Charles Leclerc to this year’s Driver’s Championship title as a result of Red Bull’s lack of reliability this season. The Dutchman has endured a turbulent start to the new campaign after suffering from a race-ending fuel pump issue in Bahrain before clinching a remarkable victory over Leclerc in Saudi Arabia at the next time of asking.
Verstappen was again forced to retire through no fault of his own during the closing stages of last week’s Australian Grand Prix and currently sits 46 points adrift of Leclerc in the individual standings after just three races. The 24-year-old now looks to have written off his chances of winning back-to-back Drivers’ Championship titles at the end of the season unless Red Bull can get on top of their glaring issues over the next few weeks.
“At the moment, there is no reason to believe in it,” Verstappen told Sky Sports when quizzed on his fading hopes of beating Leclerc to the end-of-season honours. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to fight back with an important victory when F1 travels to Imola for next weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after winning last year’s race ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
Red Bull would have been hoping to start the year with a bang but now find themselves in catch-up mode after the first three rounds of the new campaign. The Austrian outfit have managed to develop an impressively quick car, though, with Christian Horner having already insisted that his team will be a force to be reckoned with once their reliability issues have been fixed.
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“I think as Max said, we didn’t have the pace to race Charles today, they [Ferrari] were in a league of their own,” said the Red Bull team principal after Verstappen’s latest retirement in Australia. “But it’s frustrating not to be bagging those points.
“We can’t accept DNFs but we need to understand what the issue is and address it. I’d rather fix a fast car than try and make a reliable, slow one fast. We need to get on top of it.
“You could see the front tyres open up quite quickly in the race and that’s usually the sign that you haven’t got your balance totally tuned in.”
Meanwhile, Ferrari will be desperate to take advantage of Red Bull’s poor start by maintaining their sublime early form over the coming months. Leclerc has emerged as the new favourite to clinch this year’s Drivers’ Championship honours after winning in Bahrain and Australia, while Carlos Sainz will also be hoping to mount a title challenge of his own over the course of the entire campaign.
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