Verstappen had been named the pre-event favorite for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix after narrowly losing to Lewis Hamilton in Bahrain three weeks ago.
But after closely following the two Mercedes drivers in FP1 at Imola, Verstappen suffered a setback early in the second session when he was forced to pull over to the side of the track at the pit exit following a loss. power.
This ended Verstappen’s day early, leaving him 14th in the final FP2 standings with just five laps on the board, and cost him and Red Bull precious long runs later in the session.
Valtteri Bottas dominated both sessions for Mercedes, with Verstappen setting the third fastest time in FP1.
The incident continued Verstappen’s difficult record on the Italian circuits, having abandoned races at Monza, Mugello and Imola last year.
“I love Italy, the food is good, I love being here – so far the driving part has not been the luckiest,” admitted Verstappen.
“I had a propshaft problem so I had to stop the car.”
When asked how much the backhand left Red Bull on the back foot in the fight against Mercedes, Verstappen replied: “A little. But I think you know what to do anyway, so you should be fine.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Red Bull had hoped to get the car back to the garage in time so Verstappen could return to the track later in FP2.
But after the car was collected by the marshals and loaded onto a truck, it was transported by secondary roads around Imola in order to regain the pits.
“It looks like the driveshaft unfortunately gave way, we’re just trying to underestimate exactly what caused this,” said Christian Horner, Red Bull team manager.
“Unfortunately, the car did a little tour around the town of Imola after picking it up, before putting it back in the pits. It just didn’t leave enough time to replace it.
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“It’s obviously also on a Friday gearbox. We will inspect all other parts in time for tomorrow. “
Verstappen said Mercedes’ improvement in pace compared to Bahrain was “no surprise” but that he has not felt any major issues with the setup of his Red Bull RB16B since the race ended.
“It is of course difficult to say now in the second session how we would have been, but nothing shocking,” said Verstappen.
“So we’ll just have to look at what we can do best tomorrow in terms of balance. But yes, of course, first we have to make sure that nothing breaks.