RACING

Ferrari must be perfect to deny the title to Max Verstappen

ADVERTISEMENT

MONTREAL – Max Verstappen seems unstoppable right now. The reigning world champion has won six of the seven races he has completed this year.

In Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix he was forced to work for victory until the finish line, with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz chasing him closely for 15 laps to the end and finishing 0.9 seconds off the flag checkered.

ADVERTISEMENT

In what becomes his trademark, Verstappen was icy under that pressure, almost metronomic, lap after lap. He showed it several times last year in similar situations with Lewis Hamilton.

Sainz couldn’t get close enough to pass Verstappen and the mistake he needed to seize the moment never materialized.

“Max is in the form of his life at the moment, absolutely clinical,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner said after the race.

Horner later added: “He did some amazing races last year under huge pressure, you think back to Austin and so on. I think he was so good under pressure, we saw him so many times. times this year, Miami, Baku, etc. etc. He has more experience and he’s just a very complete driver”.

Verstappen was 46 points behind Charles Leclerc after the Australian Grand Prix in April, having suffered two reliability issues in the first three races. Verstappen’s lead over Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez is now the same amount, with Leclerc, who hasn’t won a race since Melbourne, three points clearer.

That’s effectively a buffer of two full race wins over its closest rivals, but F1’s bloated calendar means we’re still not halfway through the season – there are still 13 races to go until the end. End of november. While it’s easy to start scrolling through the calendar of remaining events to see when Verstappen might wrap things up on this current trajectory, he’s not taking anything for granted.

“It’s still very long,” Verstappen said at the post-race press conference. “I know the gap is of course quite big, but I also know that it can change very quickly.

“I mean, [after] in the third race I was 46 behind, so we just have to stay calm, we have to concentrate and we have to improve because today we are not the fastest.”

Ferrari agreed with Verstappen’s assessment on the pace. The team felt they had the fastest car on race day, which turns the tale of the season so far upside down.

While Leclerc dominated qualifying on Saturday recently, it has been Verstappen and Red Bull who have generally had the quickest race package and they have six straight wins to prove.

Ferrari’s chances of capitalizing on this fast race car were hampered from the start of the race weekend, with Leclerc taking a back-of-the-grid penalty for a large-scale power unit change a consequence of reliability issues. team crescents.

Sainz, whose season has been disappointing so far, was the man left to stop a Red Bull win but could only start on the second row after being overqualified by Alpine’s Fernando Alonso on the wet.

This meant Verstappen was allowed to scamper off at the start without any pressure from behind as Sainz took a little time to pass the slower Alpine. Sainz led to a stage as he and Verstappen adopted shifting strategies, but Ferrari and Red Bull doubted Sainz would be the one to win the race.

The defunct safety car gave Sainz the perfect opportunity and he said he left nothing on the table as he harassed Verstappen in the closing laps.

“I gave it my all,” the Spaniard said afterwards. “I was risking everything, you know, over the curbs, up close to the wall and spending a few moments there in the dirty air.

“I got in close a few times, but not close enough to really start an inside move. But I can tell you I was pushing.”

Given Sainz’s struggles this year, it was easy to wonder if the outcome would have been different had Leclerc pursued Verstappen at the end. Binotto hailed Sainz’s improved run but pointed out he had reduced his chances of securing a maiden F1 victory on Saturday.

“I think Carlos had a good race today. Good pace, good driving and like he said I think he was very, very close at times and so we can be very happy today that ‘He’s gaining more and more confidence.” said Binotto.

“To win today with such a close fight with Red Bull and Max, you have to be perfect for a whole weekend. If anything, yesterday qualifying wasn’t perfect from Carlos and that Maybe cost him a bit today. Because being in front or chasing is certainly another matter.”

This statement is true. Beating Verstappen right now requires a flawless weekend and Ferrari have proven to lack strategy, reliability and, in the case of Sainz on Saturday and Sunday, the performance required to beat him too often in the last two month.

Leclerc showed at the start of this season he was capable of stringing together a weekend beating Verstappen and he still looks the most likely candidate to battle the Dutch driver throughout the year, especially if Ferrari continues. to deliver a fast car on Sunday. .

Speaking about his 49-point championship deficit, Leclerc said: “It motivates me. It motivates me because of course I know the rhythm is in the car.

“I’m not worried, I’m just extremely motivated to finally have a clean weekend and show that we are here and that we are strong. So yes, at Silverstone, hopefully we can do that.”-

Can Ferrari overcome its problems?

Ferrari has a mountain to climb in both championships and is still trying to overcome its reliability issues. The Haas and Alfa Romeo customer team are growing increasingly frustrated with Ferrari’s problems and Mick Schumacher’s retirement from a promising job in Montreal has been blamed on a power unit failure.

Reliability can be a two-way street and not too long ago it seemed like Red Bull, not Ferrari, could lose a championship to car trouble. Perez’s failure to finish after a suspected gearbox failure is a reminder that Red Bull are not immune to their own problems.

“I don’t think reliability is the only factor, I think development by the end of the season is another, as is the budget cap and reliability as well,” Binotto said on Sunday night.

“The power unit is a completely new design compared to the past and the problem we have is because we have a young project and on top of that we have limitations on the dynos that weren’t there in the past, so we can’t run so much on the test bench, we are limited. This means that the exercise is more complicated.

Sure, Red Bull is limited by the same budget cap, but with a healthy points lead, fewer reliability issues to worry about and a superstar driver who seems to be improving with each passing weekend, it already looks a lot like the Milton Keynes Team Championships. lose at this point.

ADVERTISEMENT