Saturday, September 25News That Matters

Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix: Max Verstappen dealt blow in practice with mechanical failure

Max Verstappen was dealt a blow in his bid to win Sunday’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix after he broke down in practice.

The afternoon running in Imola for the second instalment of the championship was barely 10 minutes old when a mechanical failure ended Verstappen’s participation.

The Dutchman, bidding to avenge defeat to Lewis Hamilton at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix last month, pulled over at the end of the pit straight before returning to the Red Bull garage, with his team reporting a suspected driveshaft failure.

Max Verstappen endured a bad second practice session, withdrawing after just 10 minutes

Max Verstappen endured a bad second practice session, withdrawing after just 10 minutes

Max Verstappen endured a bad second practice session, withdrawing after just 10 minutes

The Red Bull star, 23, suffered mechanical failures and lost out on precious track time

The Red Bull star, 23, suffered mechanical failures and lost out on precious track time

The Red Bull star, 23, suffered mechanical failures and lost out on precious track time 

Verstappen, who had managed only five laps, was left as a helpless bystander as Valtteri Bottas completed a practice double for Mercedes ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen will be back for qualifying on Saturday, but the loss of track time could prove costly for the 23-year-old as he looks to take the title fight to Hamilton.

Hamilton opened his bid for an unprecedented eighth world championship with a defensive masterclass to keep Verstappen at bay and win in Bahrain.

But in terms of outright pace, Mercedes had few answers for Verstappen and Red Bull at the curtain raiser.

Verstappen is bidding to avenge his dramatic Bahrain defeat to champion Lewis Hamilton

Verstappen is bidding to avenge his dramatic Bahrain defeat to champion Lewis Hamilton

Verstappen is bidding to avenge his dramatic Bahrain defeat to champion Lewis Hamilton

However, the black machines appear in better shape in Imola after completing a one-two finish in both of Friday’s sessions.

Bottas ended the day just 0.010 seconds clear of Hamilton, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in third, 0.078 secs off the pace.

The afternoon action proved largely uneventful in comparison to the opening running which saw Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez collide and Nikita Mazepin crash out in his Haas.

A widespread technical failure at Imola meant that drivers were cast adrift, unable to speak with their respective pit walls over the radio.

Indeed, the stewards determined that the communication woes had a role in Ocon and Perez’s collision as the two made contact through the fifth corner.

Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets in both sessions

Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets in both sessions

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets in both sessions

Perez sustained a left-rear puncture while Ocon was also forced out with damage to the front right of his Alpine but both men returned for the second session.

Mazepin was also able to take part in the concluding action after he crashed out at the final corner in the closing moments of the opening running.

With the technical problems fixed for second practice, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc finished fourth and fifth for Ferrari, but the latter was another driver in the wars.

With just three minutes remaining, the Monegasque lost control of his Ferrari through the left-handed turn 18 before running over the gravel and into the wall.

‘I am sorry, guys,’ Leclerc said over the radio. ‘I was pushing quite a bit.’

Perez finished sixth in his Red Bull, almost nine tenths slower than Bottas. McLaren’s Lando Norris was ninth as Sebastian Vettel’s troubled start to life with Aston Martin continued after he finished only 15th.