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Verstappen’s Imola Struggles: A Sign of Red Bull’s Diminishing Edge?

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A hypothesis has been proposed to clarify Max Verstappen's atypical mistake-filled Friday in Imola

An uncommonly challenging day for Max Verstappen in Imola might have this explanation…

Damon Hill attributes Max Verstappen's atypical mistake-filled Friday at Imola to Red Bull's shrinking lead over their competitors.

On Friday, during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Verstappen experienced a challenging day, recording the seventh quickest lap time.

Verstappen displayed moments of speed, especially at the beginning of the laps, but he consistently faced difficulties in the middle segment.

His challenges reached a peak with several instances of veering off the track into the gravel.

Verstappen communicated his struggles through the team radio, saying, "I'm not sure, it's just really tough out here. Suddenly, there's way too much grip on the front, and I nearly lost control."

Red Bull's performance seems to have fallen short of their lofty standards from the past two years, a trend that has continued in Miami.

Had the Safety Car not intervened in Miami, Verstappen was poised for victory, yet he found himself trailing behind Lando Norris after losing his position on the track.

Following the second free practice session, Hill suggested that Verstappen's series of incidents away from the track might stem from the need to exert extra effort as Red Bull's competitors, Ferrari and McLaren, are narrowing the distance.

"He acknowledged that the other teams are indeed making progress to reach their level."

"The significant lead Max has maintained in recent seasons… it's only natural for others to catch up. Feeling uneasy with the speed is a matter of perspective.

"Is it that if there's a slight edge, say two or three tenths, against the competition, you're not forced to drive the car to its limit? Could it be the case now? Is Max being pushed to extract more performance from the vehicle than it's capable of, due to others catching up?"

"In fact, it's becoming apparent that we're witnessing Red Bull's peak performance, and they're diligently searching for ways to enhance it further. The competition is clearly on the rise."

Ex-W-Series racer Naomi Schiff speculated if Red Bull's difficult day was a carryover effect from the previous race.

"She also mentioned that there have been numerous grievances regarding the car's grip, its feel, and the ability to comprehend its handling."

"It's curious whether their current difficulties are simply due to an off day, or perhaps a lingering effect from the issues they encountered in Miami. Observing Lando creating an eight-second lead over Max was surprising… indeed, there were discussions about possible damage to the undercarriage due to colliding with the bollard.

"Moreover, the competition was close. My wish is for them to resolve their issues by tomorrow. However, it's refreshing to see a new leader leading the pack for once."

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