Max Verstappen fears Ferrari could eclipse Red Bull with Imola upgrade

The Dutchman is concerned the gap is closing between Red Bull and the teams behind them

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Max Verstappen has conceded Red Bull are worried about the threat posed to them by Ferrari as they prepare to bring a sizeable upgrade to Imola for the Formula 1 2024 Emilia Romagna GP.

The Scuderia will be hoping to close the gap at the front by a few tenths, with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz set to be fitted with modifications to the vertical inlet and sidepods on the SF-24 car.

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko already confirmed the team will be bringing their own upgrades to Imola as they try to fend off the challenge from the Italian manufacturer, who sit 52 points behind them in the constructors’ standings after six races.

But Verstappen, who was denied a race victory when finishing the race for the first time this season at the Miami GP, believes their rivals are closing in with every new upgrade and admits Red Bull cannot guarantee they are the quickest car on the grid.

Max Verstappen during practice ahead of 2024 Miami Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool
Max Verstappen during practice ahead of 2024 Miami Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

“There are more people coming up. Ferrari, for example, they come with a big, big upgrade. So at the moment, it’s very difficult to know where we are going to be,” Verstappen told select members of the press, including Total-Motorsport.com.

When asked if Red Bull had responded to McLaren and Ferrari’s upgrades by introducing their own, Verstappen dismissed the idea that it was a knee-jerk reaction: “These things are already planned out for a long time. It’s not like one team comes with upgrades and we’re like, ‘oh, we need to put something together’. It’s literally already in the pipeline,” the Red Bull star added.

Verstappen: Red Bull can’t rest on laurels

Verstappen complained the radio for the majority of the weekend in Miami and his comments would have been noted as McLaren’s Lando Norris finished ahead of him, interestingly putting in faster laps than Verstappen.

The three-time world champion says he is content with the changes made to their RB20 car in time for the race in Italy, but urged his team to continue finding improvements this season to keep Ferrari and McLaren at bay.

“We are happy with it [the upgrade], but naturally you have to keep on pushing because the team [Ferrari] is behind us. They [Ferrari and McLaren] are definitely catching up. As you could see in Miami when we don’t get things like 100% right, they are ahead and we have to try and make sure that we don’t have too many of those weekends,” Verstappen added.

McLaren came with a really big upgrade. I guess we will only find out here how good that upgrade is going to be because it always takes a bit of time to fully get on top of things.

‘But we knew that, it’s a little detail that can make quite a big difference in terms of time sometimes. And I think especially on a track like Miami, everything is very sensitive, it’s very hot, so a bit too much sliding here and there.”

Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan
Joe Krishnan is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who has worked for a number of media organisations, including the Daily Express, The Mirror, Evening Standard, The Independent and Bleacher Report. Joe has been following F1 since when he watched Mika Hakkinen clinch the 1999 drivers' championship, and his first taste of real-life racing action was watching David Coulthard spin off into the gravel at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2001.
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