Max Verstappen breaks down after just FIVE practice runs in the early stroke of his attempt to beat title rival Lewis Hamilton at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix … but Valtteri Bottas pips his Mercedes teammate to the fastest lap
- Max Verstappen endured a nightmare training on Friday afternoon
- Red Bull star had to withdraw after 10 minutes due to a mechanical failure
- Verstappen, 23, wants to avenge his defeat in Bahrain against Lewis Hamilton
- Mercedes offered more pace in Italy and secured a front two lockout on Friday
Max Verstappen was hit in his attempt to win the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday after breaking down in practice.
The afternoon in Imola for the second episode of the championship was barely 10 minutes old when a mechanical failure put an end to Verstappen’s participation.
The Dutchman, seeking revenge on Lewis Hamilton at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix last month, pulled up at the end of the pit lane before returning to the Red Bull garage, with his team reporting a suspected drive shaft failure.
Max Verstappen went through a bad second practice and withdrew after just 10 minutes
The Red Bull star, 23, suffered mechanical failures and lost precious job time
Verstappen, who had only completed five laps, was left a helpless bystander as Valtteri Bottas completed a practice double for Mercedes for teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Verstappen will return for qualifying on Saturday, but the loss of track time could be costly for the 23-year-old as he wants to bring the title fight to Hamilton.
Hamilton opened his bid for an unprecedented eighth world championship with a defensive masterclass to keep Verstappen at bay and win in Bahrain.
But in terms of regularity, Mercedes had few answers for Verstappen and Red Bull with the curtain riser.
Verstappen offers to avenge his dramatic defeat in Bahrain against champion Lewis Hamilton
However, the black machines appear in better shape in Imola after completing a one-two punch in both Friday’s sessions.
Bottas finished the day just 0.010 seconds behind Hamilton, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in third place, 0.078 seconds from the pace.
The afternoon action was largely uneventful compared to the opening round when Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez collided and Nikita Mazepin crashed into his Haas.
A widespread technical glitch at Imola meant drivers were drifting and unable to talk to their respective pit walls over the radio.
Indeed, the stewards determined that the communication issues played a role in the clash between Ocon and Perez when the two made contact through the fifth turn.
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets in both sessions
Perez sustained a left rear puncture while Ocon was also forced out with damage to the right side of his Alpine, but both men returned for the second session.
Mazepin was also able to participate in the closing action after crashing into the final corner in the closing moments of the opening lap.
With the technical issues resolved for the second practice, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc finished fourth and fifth for Ferrari, but the latter was a different driver in the wars.
With only three minutes to go, the Monegask lost control of his Ferrari through left-handed turn 18 before running over the gravel into the wall.
“I’m sorry, guys,” Leclerc said over the radio. “I pushed quite a bit.”
Perez finished sixth in his Red Bull, almost nine tenths slower than Bottas. McLaren’s Lando Norris finished ninth as Sebastian Vettel’s troubled start to life with Aston Martin continued after finishing just 15th.