Verstappen wary of rivals ‘catching up’ as Norris eyes Miami repeat

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Verstappen wary of rivals ‘catching up’ as Norris eyes Miami repeat

Max Verstappen says Red Bull need to “get things 100 per cent right” at this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix to avoid losing out to McLaren or Ferrari in Imola.

The Dutchman, who is seeking a fourth successive drivers’ title, was beaten for the second time in six races this season when Lando Norris utilised his upgraded McLaren to claim a maiden Formula 1 victory in Miami two weeks ago.

Ferrari were the other team to deny Red Bull a victory this season when Carlos Sainz led Charles Leclerc to a one-two in March’s Australian Grand Prix, and the Italian team will bring their first significant upgrade package of the season to the first European race of the campaign.

Asked if it was important for Red Bull to respond to their rivals’ upgrades, Verstappen said: “It’s not responding. These things are already planned out. It’s not like one team comes with upgrades and we are like, ‘oh, we need to put something together’. It’s already in the pipeline.

“We are happy with it but naturally, you need to keep on pushing because the teams behind are catching up. As we saw in Miami, when we don’t get things 100 per cent right, they are ahead. We have to try to make sure we don’t have too many of those weekends.”

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Lando Norris backs McLaren to win the F1 world championship title next year and says he wants to challenge one of the best drivers ever in Verstappen

After Red Bull won all but one of last season’s 22 races, Ferrari looked set to push the reigning constructors’ champions closer in making a strong start to 2024, but the raft of changes McLaren brought to Miami has set up the enticing prospect of three-way battles for race wins.

“Ferrari have got a big upgrade. It’s difficult to know where we are going to be,” Verstappen continued.

“McLaren have a really big upgrade and we will only find out here how good that upgrade is going to be because it always takes a bit of time to get on top of things.

“It’s about little details that can make a big difference to lap times sometimes, especially on a track like Miami which is sensitive.”

Norris: McLaren better suited to Imola than Miami

After finally achieving a first F1 victory in his 110th Grand Prix, Norris appeared to be cautiously optimistic regarding his chances of making it two wins in a row.

The Brit insisted that McLaren remain behind Red Bull and Ferrari in F1’s overall pecking order, but also admitted he expects the MCL38 to be even better suited to the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari than it was to the Miami circuit he triumphed at.

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Norris tells us what he’s done since being an F1 race winner but still thinks the McLaren is third in the pecking order

“I celebrated appropriately for the occasion, of course,” Norris said on Thursday. “But it’s another weekend so I’ve got to make sure that I’m prepared and ready to go.

“I still think of it a lot, but at the same time, as much as you want to keep it in your mind, you have to turn your focus to the next weekend, which is this one and hopefully try to replicate a similar thing.

“I think we are just better suited to Imola, potentially the upgrade a little bit as well. Imola has generally been one of our most successful tracks as a team, and for me as a driver. So I would like to say so.

“I think we definitely took a step forward. From what I know, other teams have upgrades too, so I don’t think we’re getting ahead of ourselves. I know I’ve put good confidence forward to the team, I’ve said that we’re confident we can take step forwards, but I think I made it clear that we’re not going to be there every weekend.

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Watch the 360 footage and bottle cam of Norris’ maiden F1 victory at the Miami GP for McLaren

“We need more if we’re going to challenge Ferrari more consistently, if we’re going to challenge Red Bull more consistently but the team are doing a great job. They’ve made some good steps and we have more things hopefully coming in the future and those are what we need to beat them more often.”

McLaren should theoretically be able to get more out of their upgrades in Imola, with a return to the traditional format of three practice sessions after there having been just one as Miami hosted a Sprint weekend.

Additionally, unlike in Miami, both McLaren’s will run with the full upgrade package after Norris’ team-mate Oscar Piastri had to make to do with only some of the new parts in Florida.

Norris, who was aided by a timely Safety Car in Miami, says that the result has boosted his and the team’s confidence of pushing Red Bull more often.

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Norris receives a hero’s welcome when arriving at McLaren’s Technology Centre in Woking after his maiden race win at the Miami GP

“Does it give me more hope in challenging them? 100 per cent,” he added.

“We had an upgrade there, it definitely helped us. I think anyway we seemed good there, even if we had no upgrade I think we still would have been decent but maybe not quite as quick.

“I know Max had damage and all of this, and people like to use that, but even before he had damage we were still quicker than him by a fairly big chunk.”

Leclerc confident upgrades are ‘step in right direction’

As is always the case in Italy, Ferrari will be the main attraction, with upgrades to the SF-24 only likely to increase the expectations of the tifosi.

Ferrari used a filming day earlier this week to run their new parts for the first time, but Leclerc suggested a minimal amount of useful data was gained in Fiorano.

Despite a lack of certainty, the Monegasque expressed confidence that the changes will push Ferrari closer to Red Bull.

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Charles Leclerc says there are more opportunities to win races this year

“We tested the upgrade on the simulator and then we did a filming day, but that was mostly for filming purposes,” he said. “For now we don’t really have real data yet, so we will have to wait and see until we do the first few laps here in Imola.

“I know that visually it’s a big change. I would be careful on what you see visually and to not get carried away and to not have false expectations as well because that would not be good for ourselves.

“It’s a step in the right direction we believe, of course. It still needs to be confirmed but I’m confident that it is. Then how much of a step forward is it remains to be seen.”

Despite having shown the pace to compete with Red Bull in Australia, Ferrari suffered from inconsistency as a lack of speed saw them drop backwards in Japan and China.

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Karun Chandhok looks deeper into Lewis Hamilton’s pole lap in 2021 ahead of the Emilia Romagna GP

After a more positive weekend in Miami, Sainz is hopeful that Imola is another circuit where the SF-24 should excel.

“I still think it’s going to be track dependent,” the Spaniard said. “I think in Miami, it was a better suited track for our car and we had really good pace, even though McLaren and Red Bull were maybe half a step in front.

“Our car felt back to normal, while in China in particular it felt really not good. So I think we’re going to be very track dependent and hopefully Imola is one of those good tracks for us and we can put on a good show in front of the crowd. This would be an ideal scenario.

“For the rest, we’re going to need to keep developing for tracks like China because there are certain types of corner where our car really struggles right now and we need to keep moving forward in that sense.”

Sky Sports F1’s live Emilia Romagna GP schedule

Friday May 17
8:50am: F3 Practice
10am: F2 Practice
12pm: Emilia Romagna GP Practice One (session starts at 12.30pm)
2pm: F3 Qualifying
2:55pm: F2 Qualifying
3:45pm: Emilia Romagna GP Practice Two (session starts at 4pm)
5:30pm: The F1

F1 visits Europe for the first time in 2024 with the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Imola

Saturday May 18
9am: F3 Sprint
11:15am: Emilia Romagna GP Practice Three (session starts at 11.30am)
1.10pm: F2 Sprint
2.10pm: Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying build-up
3pm: Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying
5pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
5.30pm: Indy 500 Qualifying

Sunday May 19
7.30am: F3 Feature Race
9am: F2 Feature Race
12:30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: Emilia Romagna GP build-up
2pm: The EMILIA ROMAGNA GRAND PRIX
4pm: Chequered Flag: Emilia Romagna GP reaction
5pm: Ted’s Notebook
8pm: Indy 500 Qualifying

Formula 1 heads to Europe as Imola returns to the calendar following last year’s cancelled race. Watch the Emilia Romagna GP this weekend, with Sunday’s race at 2pm. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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