As the sun rose a few hours before the opening Free Practice Session of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing could not have imagined the eventful day that would lay ahead. Whilst championship rivals Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team had a textbook-esque almost 2020 like opening day of the weekend, Red Bull had a calamity!
For Max Verstappen the first free practice session went smoothly, ending the morning session in third place with a 1:16.622, however like the majority of the field including championship rival Lewis Hamilton, Verstappen had an off during the morning, which saw him cut across the gravel between Turns two and three.
The second free practice session proved to be a short one for Verstappen, a driveshaft malfunction bringing his friday to an early end, without completing a qualifying simulation. The best Verstappen could manage before the incident was a 1:16.999 leaving him in fourteenth place.
Despite this the Dutchman doesn’t seem too fazed, staying fully focused on the final free practice session and qualifying on Saturday.
“I like Italy. The food is good and I enjoy being here but we don’t seem to have been that lucky with the driving here recently, so hopefully that will change. I had a driveshaft issue so we had to stop the car in FP2 and it wasn’t the easiest to get the car back to the pits so I couldn’t get back out on track.”
“The car felt alright in FP1 and it is difficult to say how the second session would have been but we will still be able to look at the data and see what we can do better for tomorrow in terms of balance.”
“Of course it would have been better to have the session but I don’t think missing running in FP2 is the end of the world as we know what we need to do tomorrow. We just have to focus on ourselves and make sure we get the best out of our package.”
“We’ve learnt a lot today as a Team” – Perez
It wasn’t just free practice two where Red Bull had issues, a bizarre crash for Sergio Pérez in free practice one with former team-mate Esteban Ocon left the Red Bull mechanics with plenty of work to do. The crash brought out the red flag in the opening session. Both drivers were summoned to the stewards but no further action was taken. Pérez and Ocon both admitted that it was all a bit of a misunderstanding, which wasn’t helped by both of their teams radios being down.
With all of this taking place Pérez was limited to running time in the morning session, seeing him end the opening free practice in sixteenth place on a 1:18.228.
Thankfully the mechanics turned the car around in time for free practice two, which gave Pérez some much needed running on the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari. The Mexican showed strong race pace and ended the day in a solid sixth place with a 1:16.411. A respectable position considering his lack of running time.
“It was definitely good to get a decent amount of laps in the second session today and to get a feel for the car on a different track. The track conditions are obviously very different here compared to Bahrain so I’m just learning how the car behaves on different tracks.
“We’ve learnt a lot today as a Team and for every lap I do, I learn a few tricks here and there. The race pace seems to be strong and the car felt good, hopefully we can pull it all together in qualifying tomorrow. With the incident this morning, we didn’t have radio so I think there was a miscommunication through there and I think it was just bad timing.”
All in all a very challenging day for Red Bull, will they turn it around in qualifying?