Dakar Rally News: Verstappen Poised for Comeback at Spanish Grand Prix

    The upcoming Spanish Grand Prix is shaping up to be an exciting multi-team battle, but a key setup change could provide a significant boost for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

    Tight Competition at the Top

    Friday’s FP2 session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya saw the top three drivers – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Carlos Sainz (Ferrari), and Lando Norris (McLaren) – separated by just 0.055 seconds, hinting at a close fight for the front spots. Verstappen, however, finished fifth, 0.240 seconds off Hamilton’s leading time, and behind Alpine’s Pierre Gasly.

    Norris and his teammate Oscar Piastri both acknowledged the tight competition, with Piastri noting that “small mistakes are making a big difference” and expecting “another tight session in quali and a tight race as well.”

    Hamilton, while cautious, believes his Mercedes is in a “better place” and is hopeful of keeping up with the Red Bulls and Ferraris.

    Verstappen’s Potential Comeback

    Verstappen, on the other hand, remained unfazed by his Friday performance, explaining that the team was “just trying a few different setups” and that they would now focus on “trying to tidy up a little bit the car.”

    The key to Verstappen’s potential comeback lies in a setup change. The Dutchman was running a more slender rear wing compared to his teammate Sergio Perez, which led to a “loose in the exits in general” balance and some understeer issues. However, moving back to Red Bull’s higher downforce rear wing package is expected to provide two significant benefits for Verstappen.

    1. The increased downforce will mean less sliding in the corners, which will help avoid overheating the soft tires over a flying lap and allow the rubber to last longer in the race.
    2. The Autosport analysis of the FP2 long-runs showed that even with the rear wing difference, Verstappen still had an edge in lap time averages, though the lower downforce likely exacerbated signs of tire degradation.

    Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has already confirmed that the team is planning to alter Verstappen’s rear wing arrangement for Saturday, stating that “the set-up has to go in that direction [higher downforce] for the race.”

    With this key setup change, Verstappen and Red Bull are poised to bounce back and mount a strong challenge for the Spanish Grand Prix victory, setting the stage for an enthralling multi-team battle at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

    ๐Ÿ”— Source