Rising Competition Pressures Verstappen into Uncharacteristic Errors, Claims Ferrari Chief

Lando Norris outperformed Verstappen in Miami and nearly did so again at Imola, while Charles Leclerc took advantage of Red Bull's struggles in Monaco.

Ferrari chief Frederic Vasseur has hinted that the growing pressure from rivals is causing Max Verstappen to make more frequent mistakes.

Since his contentious title win over Lewis Hamilton in 2021, Verstappen has been dominant, securing back-to-back championships and starting this season strongly.

However, recent races indicate a shift in momentum.

Lando Norris outperformed Verstappen in Miami and nearly did so again at Imola, while Charles Leclerc took advantage of Red Bull’s struggles in Monaco.

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Vasseur suggests that the resurgence of McLaren and Ferrari is putting pressure on Verstappen and Red Bull, leading to uncharacteristic errors from the reigning champion.

“I don’t want to draw any conclusions from this weekend, but if you look at the last two weekends, Max made more mistakes in Imola than in the last three seasons,” Vasseur said.

“As soon as you have to push more, if you have to stay in your comfort zone for the strategy, for everything, you don’t have to make mistakes.

“I think they were in that situation – but I’m not drawing any conclusions.

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“They will be back soon and be strong and I am not considering that all the races will be easy until the end.

“As soon as you are in a position where you have to pay more attention to detail, you have a kind of snowball effect – and this is part of the improvement of the last six or seven months.”

Vasseur’s observations echo those of Damon Hill, who watched Verstappen struggle at Imola. After seeing the Red Bull driver go off course four times during Friday’s practice, the 1996 F1 champion suggested that Verstappen might be feeling the pressure of having real competitors again.

Sky Sports analyst Hill remarked, “The other teams are catching up.

“That is definitely the case.

“The comfortable advantage that Max has enjoyed over the last couple of seasons… it is inevitable that people will close the gap.

“When you are uncomfortable with the pace, it is relative.

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“If you’ve got a two or three tenths advantage over everyone, then you don’t have to push the car. Is that what we are seeing now? Is Max having to get more out of the car than he can, as a result of other people closing up?

“Actually, are you starting to see the ultimate performance of the Red Bull, and they are scratching their heads to find more.

“Competition is definitely coming.”