JUNE 22, 2024

Imola test was to give Verstappen reference says Red Bull

Red Bull admits Max Verstappen was given a private run in the team's title-winning 2022 car earlier this week to serve as a "reference" for some of the problems with this year's single seater.

Max Verstappen, Spanish GP 2024
© Red Bull

Fresh from his Imola test, the Dutch driver was just P5 in Friday practice in Barcelona, but Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko sounded more positive than he has for weeks.

That was one of our best Fridays in a long time, he said. It's not going as badly as fifth would suggest. We didn't use full power, so it's not that alarming and the long runs were ok.

Barcelona is a track that suits the 2024 Red Bull much better than Monaco or Canada, but also possible is that the reference test in the 2022 car was a help.

We wanted to give Max a reference of a previous car, chief engineer Paul Monaghan told reporters in Spain.

"If you try to determine the weak and strong points of the current car, it's possible that he thinks 'Ah, in previous years it was like this or like that'.

Max was able to give us good feedback, and now it's up to us to decide what we do with it. We're just giving him a different reference point, Monaghan added.

Marko says the Barcelona-Austria-Silverstone triple header will be the real test for Red Bull's world championship hopes.

If you are at the top in these three races, then you have almost all of the permanent race tracks under control, he told Kleine Zeitung newspaper.

This is where the true balance of power will be revealed.

Another problem for Red Bull, however, is that while Verstappen may now be feeling the heat for his fourth consecutive title win, teammate Sergio Perez's form has totally slumped.

There are even questions being asked in the paddock about just how solid the Mexican's newly-signed contract extension really is.

We have to look at Perez and see what the problem is, said Marko, referring to Perez's woeful P13 performance on Friday. The gap is too big.

Former F1 driver Christijan Albers even thinks Perez's 2025 contract may contain so many clauses that it's hardly worth the paper it's printed on.

I think they have learned from last year and the year before that, he told Viaplay. They surely have clauses in that contract.

Albers thinks Perez's struggles are simply being totally exposed now that Red Bull no longer has clearly the best car in the field.

The situation is really exactly the same as in all previous years, said the Dutchman. But with a gap of three or four tenths, he's suddenly thirteenth now.

Speaking with El Mundo Deportivo newspaper in Barcelona, even 34-year-old Perez admits that a signed Red Bull contract is never a reason to feel relaxed.

Definitely, he said. Here at Red Bull you have to earn everything that comes to you. You have to earn it right there on the track.