Red Bull launch Max Verstappen investigation as Marko raises concerns

Horner opens up on Red Bull's 'barren spell' amid Mercedes dominance

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Max Verstappen’s car will be investigated by Red Bull after the Dutchman struggled in first practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Red Bull chief Helmut Marko has claimed the team will look into a strange issue on Verstappen’s car noticed in FP1.

Marko told Sky Germany that the Dutchman’s car was not working as it did during pre-season testing. The news could be a dent to Verstappen’s hopes of securing victory this weekend.

Team-mate Sergio Perez topped the timesheets in FP1 with Verstappen only fast enough for P3 with a lap around seven-tenths slower. More concerningly for the world champion, Marko admitted the two drivers were on identical set-ups during the opening session.

Speaking to the German broadcaster, Marko also denied reports that the team was forced by the FIA to raise its ride heights. There had been some speculation that this was demanded by the governing body due to the bumpy nature of the Bahrain circuit.

If true, this would have had a major effect on Verstappen and Perez’s performance as it would lead to an increase in downforce and drag. Red Bull were confident coming into the weekend after a dominant display in pre-season testing.

The reigning Constructors’ Champions had a trouble-free run in Sakhir last week while they also lit up the leaderboards. Verstappen even played up Red Bull’s expectations ahead of the opening Grand Prix as he confirmed the RB19 was a major upgrade on last year’s design.

He explained: “Everywhere. That’s the aim I mean you always try and improve it.

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“It feels nice, well balanced of course and every team of course lost a bit of performance with the floor but you always try and gain it back in a way. So you have to of course find a new balance with the car but it’s been good.”

Red Bull’s rivals are also convinced Red Bull will continue their dominance into 2023 after the team broke records in 2022. Verstappen’s 15 race wins were the most in a single season as the 25-year-old secured the title four rounds early.

Speaking ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Mercedes’ George Russell accepted Red Bull could be uncatchable. He explained: “But I think it’s definitely fair to say Red Bull are in a bit of a league of their own this weekend. I think it will probably be a nice fight for second place, probably between Ferrari and Aston Martin.”

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