Verstappen took pole position for Red Bull for the opening of the F1 season and led the early stages of the race, but frequently reported problems and was unable to clear more than two seconds from Lewis Hamilton .
This allowed Hamilton to get up early and secure clearance on Verstappen, laying the groundwork for the Mercedes driver to win the 0.7 second race after a late battle.
Red Bull F1 adviser Marko said the differential issue in the early stages cost Verstappen around three-tenths of a second per lap, with teammate Sergio Perez dealing with a similar issue on his car.
“What was most serious at the start of the race was that there were issues in the area of the differential,” said Marko in an exclusive interview with German sister site Autosport formel1.de.
“In sector 1, we lost drastically, up to three tenths per lap. The same was true of Perez, by the way. Not only was there less grip, the rear wheels were slipping and the tires were heating up.
“During this phase, we failed to take the advantage that we would need to avoid a clearance. We fell back from 2.5 to 1.7 seconds. It was the decisive phase of the first stint, where we were clearly handicapped.
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
“And then we had another problem, which was that we had to turn down the engine power due to temperature issues. But Max still managed to catch up.
Verstappen managed to catch Hamilton in the finals thanks to a tire advantage, but passed off track at turn 4 and was asked to surrender.
Hamilton then managed to keep Verstappen at bay and prevent him from making a second pass, securing Mercedes a winning start to the season.
Despite missing out on the race victory, the performance nonetheless marked Red Bull’s best start to the season in several years, giving the team hope for a sustained title challenge.
Looking ahead to the second race of the year at Imola, Marko said that even with a solid car and powertrain, Red Bull would still have to perform flawlessly to defeat Mercedes.
“I think with the package we have, a very competitive engine, a chassis that responds well to everything, that we will be back on a par with Mercedes,” said Marko.
“We now know that you can only be successful against Mercedes if you act perfectly. Everything must be fine.
“We assume it will be a similar situation – hopefully with an inverted podium and Max at the top.”