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Max Verstappen reveals it was “nearly impossible to drive his Red Bull” before retiring in Bahrain, while Toto Wolff welcomed a “fantastic” result for Mercedes

Max Verstappen has admitted he had a “very tough” opening race as he began his Formula One title defense by retiring in Bahrain and handing rivals Mercedes a “fantastic” result.

The first race of Verstappen’s championship defense ended in the pit lane as late drama saw both him and Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez sit out.

Verstappen's race ended in the pit lane

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Verstappen’s race ended in the pit lane

And then Perez was dumped with what Red Bull suspected was the same problem

Getty

And then Perez was dumped with what Red Bull suspected was the same problem

Verstappen was a competitor throughout as he battled with longtime rival Charles Leclerc who eventually came home with a superb win.

The duo put up a fantastic mid-race fight and seemed to have another in the closing stages thanks to a safety car triggered by a fire in Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri.

Verstappen had just made a late stop for fresh tires and was complaining of steering issues before then losing power and any chance of victory or points.

“We don’t quite understand why it happened, but it definitely happened when the tires were on and I drove off,” explained Verstappen after the race.

“Not only was the steering getting heavy it was almost impossible to steer and the faster I went it just felt like a lag and so I made a right turn and it took a while for anything to happen, and so my restart was really bad because I wanted to go full throttle because I couldn’t because my wheel was stuck.

“It was very tough out there. There were a lot of issues out there and that’s not what you want the first weekend.


Verstappen had to regret a missed opportunity

Verstappen had to regret a missed opportunity

“There are a lot of things to analyze. You can always say that problems can happen and you might retire, but at this level, after getting so much information about engines and stuff, that shouldn’t happen.”

The Dutchman’s Red Bull boss Christian Horner described the finish of the race as “brutal” and confirmed the two problems with the No.1 car were unrelated.

“That was a brutal end to this race for us. What looked like a decent finish for us has evaporated in the last few laps,” said Horner.

“It looks like a similar problem to us on both cars, we don’t know exactly what it is, whether it’s a lift pump, a collector or something of that nature, but we need to look into it and find out what’s causing it.

Horner said there are positives but Ferrari looked quick

Horner said there are positives but Ferrari looked quick

“Of course we are disappointed when we look back on a comfortable second place. So far we’ve had a pretty decent run.

“Ferrari was a bit quicker than us today and they’ve shown over the winter that they’re very fast and they confirmed that today, but Max made the pass twice and couldn’t stop it.”

Red Bull’s late disaster allowed reigning constructors’ champions Mercedes to capitalize, with Lewis Hamilton third and George Russell fourth.

The Silver Arrows lacked pace all weekend and were easily the third fastest team on the grid but had plenty of positives to take from an unexpected 27 points.

Hamilton snuck onto the podium after the late drama

AFP

Hamilton snuck onto the podium after the late drama

Team principal Toto Wolff was delighted with the result: “You can see how frustrating it would have been to finish third and fourth last year, but this year we are surpassing our weight class.

“Since the Red Bulls aren’t done yet, third and fourth place is a fantastic result.

“I think we’re almost there with the soft tire at pure pace, not with Leclerc, but with the others. With Degradation it’s too big and then of course we tried to do something else but putting the hard-on on was like putting your hand in the toilet.

“It was a second slower every single lap, so I learned my lesson.

“We were probably outflanked and had too much drag, which is probably because we are missing parts at the moment.

The Mercedes had its problems, but was still able to collect solid points

Getty

The Mercedes had its problems, but was still able to collect solid points

“Hopefully we can remedy the situation and we have to leave no stone unturned.”

Third-placed Lewis Hamilton was similarly happy but admitted there was still work to be done.

“I woke up this morning hoping that we could have a car that’s better than we think it is,” he said.

“We struggled in the race but George did a good job and with the struggles we’re having to finish third and fourth is quite remarkable.

Hamilton was a happy man

Hamilton was a happy man

“The thing about our car is, it’s a car that bounces a lot everywhere, not just in a straight line. We have a very bad rear end in all of the slow and medium speed corners.

“We are very slow on the straights. I don’t know if it’s drag or performance, we haven’t figured that out yet, but without DRS we can’t keep up with the others.

“We have a lot of work to do.”

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https://talksport.com/sport/motorsport/1068445/max-verstappen-red-bull-bahrain-f1-toto-wolff-mercedes/ Max Verstappen reveals it was “nearly impossible to drive his Red Bull” before retiring in Bahrain, while Toto Wolff welcomed a “fantastic” result for Mercedes

Andrew Schnitker

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