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Formula 1 | Verstappen: Ferrari in Austria “slightly stronger than expected”

Spielberg was a small step backwards in the Formula 1 championship for Red Bull. Despite Max Verstappen’s pole position at the home game in Austria, the Dutchman was unable to match the pace of World Championship competitor Charles Leclerc in the race and lost points to the Ferrari driver for the second time in a row.

A 38-point lead still looks comfortable for him, but last year Verstappen seemed to have a good lead in the summer, which was caught up by Mercedes in the final phase of 2021. Something similar cannot be ruled out in 2022, especially since the development is likely to be even stronger than at the end of the previous control period.

“They were a bit stronger than expected, but we were definitely below expectations,” says Verstappen about Spielberg. He doesn’t just blame the defeat at the Red Bull Ring on the tires, but on the package in general, which just didn’t fit in Spielberg. “But we hope that with the things we’ve learned, we’ll be a little more competitive in general.”

That is also necessary because to be able to fight Ferrari you need a good day. “And we didn’t have that,” says Verstappen. “So we have to at least get back to our normal level.”

The question is which car is generally better: the Red Bull RB18 or the Ferrari F1-75? So far Ferrari seemed to have the upper hand, especially in qualifying, as seven pole positions show, but in the race until Spielberg Red Bull actually had the better cards.

“Of course it depends on the track, but in general I had the feeling that they had the more dominant weekends than we did,” Verstappen pushes the role of favorites to the reds. Because Red Bull has never had a really dominant weekend.

Red Bull benefited from Ferrari mistakes

Especially at the beginning of the year, Ferrari seemed to be significantly faster. “After Melbourne, I thought that we might have fought back at the end of the year and have a chance. But then the tide turned very quickly,” says Verstappen. According to him, this was mainly due to a few failures by Ferrari and difficult strategic decisions.

“We benefited from that,” he knows and therefore sees Red Bull as a hunter when it comes to performance. And the quick change at the top of the World Championship showed him: “It can also go the other way very quickly. We can’t afford any mistakes.”

Equally important is the development, which plays a bigger role than usual in the first year under the new regulations. “Of course everyone improves their car every year, but not as drastically as this year,” says Verstappen. “We have to keep bringing upgrades and we have to keep working.”

But he also emphasizes: “There is no guarantee.” Red Bull is considered a team that has always been able to develop well in the past, “but we have to show that again this year. Because if you think like that, you usually fall behind because you think you’re good. But we have to also show that we are good.”

Even at Red Bull there is still a lot of room for improvement. The RB18, for example, is still above the weight limit, which of course costs lap time. “It’s just time that you throw away,” says Verstappen. “And there’s no upgrade that can easily fix that.”

Is Mercedes catching up to the top?

And in addition to Ferrari, another competitor could join in the second half of the season. Mercedes struggled early in the season but have closed the gap to the leaders and could become a real threat in France for the first time in the battle for victory.

But even if Mercedes is too far behind to clinch the title, the Silver Arrows are yet another opponent influencing the title race. Because if they move between Ferrari and Red Bull, for example, more points are quickly lost.

“As long as we’re better than Ferrari, that’s not a problem,” said Verstappen. “But otherwise it doesn’t matter what you do. If you’re slower, it doesn’t matter how many cars are fighting at the front.”

“But it’s usually a good thing because everyone has to be at 100 per cent to get the points they deserve – and we’ve usually been pretty good at that,” he says. “And that’s better for the sport, isn’t it?” He sees a possible three-way battle positively. “And for me it’s also good to have more cars up front. Because then more can happen.”

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