Max Verstappen empathized with title rival Charles Leclerc’s crippling run of engine failures but says that his team has done a better job of improving his car’s reliability.
Verstappen opened the season with two engine failures in the first three rounds and has suffered a variety of more minor technical niggles throughout his campaign, but he’s yet to finish off the podium when he’s seen the flag, collecting five victories and a third place.
Leclerc, on the other hand, has seen his rock-solid early-season reliability melt away, with two engine retirements of his own in the last three weekends as well as a strategy misstep that cost him victory in Monaco.
Verstappen, who now leads Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez by 21 points and Leclerc by 34 points in the drivers standings, said he felt for Leclerc after having dealt with a similar run of bad luck early in the campaign but added that it was up to Ferrari to respond to keep the title fight alive.
“I would always say s••t happens,” he said. “That’s racing, you know? It happened to me, it happened to many people in the past and unfortunately it’s happening to Charles.
“If I would be in the same situation I would also be disappointed, I think that’s very normal. It’s about how you come out of it. You always look at how to improve things, and that’s what we did as well at the beginning of the season.
“You learn from it — you don’t like it, you are angry, but you turn it around. You always have to stay on it, because something else might happen, and you have to prevent these issues from happening.”
But Red Bull Racing is confident it isn’t just Ferrari’s sudden bout of unreliability that’s catapulted it to an 80-point lead in the constructors standings. Team principal Christian Horner says the other emerging trend that’s led to the current title picture is the RB18 being the quicker car on Sundays, as evidenced by Verstappen’s 100 percent podium record when he’s seen the flag this season.
“I think [Ferrari] have a very fast car certainly on Saturday, but on a Sunday I think we’ve been equal to them at pretty much every race that we’ve been to this year,” he said. “I think that was the case again today from what we could see in the early laps certainly with Max versus Charles.
“We capitalized on their misfortune today. It’s a shame in many respects that the race didn’t pan out, because I do think we had a good race car today and I think we would’ve beaten Charles strategically in the route we picked as well.
“The important thing was that, on their misfortune, we capitalized on that and we banked the points, because obviously the championship looks healthy at the moment, but we’ve seen how quickly that can change.
“Of course there’s a long, long way for this championship to play out. We’ve seen big swings in points over the last four or five races, and it just shows how quickly things can turn around.”