Max Verstappen lost the season-opener of the 2021 F1 season to Sir Lewis Hamilton by 0.7 seconds. Now, it has been revealed that a differential issue cost Verstappen 0.3s per lap early on in the Grand Prix under the lights in Bahrain. This opinion was voiced by the indomitable Dr Helmut Marko and was published on Formel1.de. According to Dr Marko, Max Verstappen was "clearly handicapped" early on so yet another reason showing the might of Red Bull Racing this season.
Having topped all of the free practice sessions and claimed pole position in his RB16B, Max Verstappen was the strong favourite for the victory in Bahrain. However, the tv-viewing public heard team radio comments early on which involved Red Bull Racing’s talismanic racer frequently reporting problems. Despite having track position, this meant that Max Verstappen was not able to create a gap to Sir Lewis Hamilton of anything more than 2 seconds. As a result of this, when Mercedes made their strategic pitstop for their main man to get track position by way of the undercut – the task became an uphill struggle for Verstappen.
The exclusive interview published on Formel1.de was translated by their sister site – motorsport.com. The website presented the explanation from Red Bull Racing’s infamous F1 advisor Dr Marko stating that that the differential issue in the opening stages was costing Max Verstappen around three-tenths of a second per lap. Such an issue was not restricted to Verstappen seeing how his teammate Sergio Perez also had to handle a similar issue on his RB16B.
"What was most serious at the beginning of the race was that there were problems in the differential area," Dr Marko said. "In Sector 1, we lost drastically, up to three tenths per lap. The same was the case with Perez, by the way. Not only was there less grip, but the rear wheels were spinning and the tyres were getting hot.
"During this phase, we didn't manage to gain the advantage we would have needed to avoid an undercut. We fell back from 2.5 to 1.7 seconds. That was the decisive phase of the first stint, where we were clearly handicapped.
"And then we had another problem, namely that we had to turn down the engine power due to temperature problems. But Max still managed to catch up."
Not only did Max Verstappen catch up with the race leader – Sir Lewis Hamilton – but he also made a bold overtaking maneuver as the race drew to a close. However, as has been well reported by now, due to Verstappen’s overtake being deemed as happening off-track at Turn 4, the Dutchman had to give the lead back to the seven-time F1 Champion almost immediately after. With this went any chance of victory and Verstappen crossed the line just 0.7 seconds away from a famous win.
Nevertheless, what Red Bull Racing’s performance in Bahrain has definitely shown the motorsport community is that the team based in Milton Keynes has a strong package to compete with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team. Therefore, it is no wonder Dr Marko and co are looking forward to heading to Italy for the second race of the season. Although, the Red Bull Racing figurehead is aware that his team will have to be at the top of their game to stand any chance of dethroning the seven-time consecutive F1 Constructors’ Champions.
"I think with the package we have, a very competitive engine, a chassis that reacts well to everything, that we will be back on par with Mercedes," Marko said. "We know now, you can only succeed against Mercedes if you act flawlessly. Everything has to be right. We assume that it will be a similar situation - hopefully with a reversed podium and Max on top."
The neutral fan of Formula One, as well as all those supporting Red Bull Racing, will also hope to see Max Verstappen on the top step of the podium in Imola. If this comes to pass then we really would have the Hamilton/Verstappen title fight which so many anticipate and have predicted for the coming year.