Published On: Thu, Apr 4th, 2019

Max Verstappen: Red Bull ace issued ‘lonely’ warning over title fight | F1 | Sport

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That’s the claim of F1 expert and former driver Jolyon Palmer.

Verstappen came fourth in the Bahrain Grand Prix last Sunday to end a run of six successive podium finishes stretching back to last year.

But the 20-year-old was only denied third spot in Sakhir by a safety car, having been closing rapidly on Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari after he endured a power failure to give up first place.

Verstappen is currently only behind Mercedes duo Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship, with the Finn leading by a single point after earning the fastest lap in the season opener in Australia.

But Palmer believes that Verstappen will eventually be nowhere near either the Mercedes pair or Ferrari’s Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, insisting that Red Bull’s Honda-powered RB15 simply does not have the pace to keep up with the two frontrunners.

Palmer told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Chequered Flag podcast: “Max Verstappen, he’s ahead of both Ferrari drivers in the driver’s world championship. 

“I think he’s in for a very, very lonely year. 

“He’s not got the pace of the Ferraris and the Mercedes even though he did well in the early stages to stick with them. 

“Ultimately he ended up in fourth place ahead of Vettel because of Vettel’s spin. 

“We’ve still had no sign he’s going to have a team-mate to fight with either. 

“Verstappen’s not got a lot of pace but he’s extracting that bit more to keep his head above water in the midfield. 

“He was only seven seconds behind Bottas when the safety car came out. 

“Verstappen was keeping the frontrunners, Bottas at least, fairly honest.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner also admitted Mercedes and Ferrari were too fast for the Milton Keynes-based team – but is optimistic Verstappen can get back on the podium in the near future.

He said: “Max made a good recovery at the first corner and raced very hard, but we just didn’t have the pace to go with Mercedes or Ferrari.

“He was unfortunate to miss out on what would have been an opportunistic podium following Charles Leclerc’s bad luck but hopefully there will be more podiums to come soon.”

The 2019 F1 season resumes with the Chinese Grand Prix a week on Sunday.

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