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Canadian GP: What now in F1 2024 after Red Bull’s ‘big weakness’ exposed in Monaco defeat?

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Max Verstappen admits Red Bull’s struggles in Monaco exposed the “big weakness” in their 2024 car amid the growing challenge to the world champions’ two-year stranglehold on race weekends in F1.

Amid what was already a tightening of the battle at the front of Formula 1 this season, Red Bull suffered their least competitive showing since last September’s Singapore GP – another street track – two weeks ago in Monaco with Verstappen qualifying and finishing sixth in a race won impressively by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

On leaving Monaco with a reduced world championship lead over Leclerc of 31 points, Verstappen admitted: “Some tracks that are still upcoming won’t really be that good for us but then also some tracks will be better for us.”

Speaking to Sky Sports F1, the world champion added: “The only positive that comes out of [Monaco] is that we understand what our big weakness is and that’s what we really have to work on.

“I think if we can solve that, or at least make it decent, we immediately gain a lot of lap time.

“That is promising – but we have to do it.”

So what ‘weakness’ did Monaco expose for Red Bull?

Red Bull’s rivals have largely been clutching at straws when attempting to identify weaker points in their cars since the current F1 rules package was introduced in 2022, with the Milton Keynes team and Verstappen dominating the era so far.

But the RB20 was conclusively off the pace all weekend in Monaco with car not enjoying the street track’s bumps or kerbs.

“To understand what the issues were with the ride and the kerbs, we’ve got a huge amount of data now to go away and look at, and look to address for the upcoming races,” said team boss Christian Horner after the race.

“I think we saw it in Singapore last year as well, so I think we’ve had another example of that. We know it’s an area of the car we need to work on.

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Max Verstappen assesses Red Bull’s chances of a stronger showing in Montreal after their Monaco struggles

“I think, first of all it’s understanding what the issue is, so once we’ve done that, then you can look at what the relevant fix is.”

Verstappen brutally likened his experience in qualifying, when he went only sixth quickest after hitting the wall at Ste Devote, to driving a “go-kart”. But, while the description may have been blunt, Horner said the Dutchman’s famously straight-to-the-point analysis of what the RB20 was like to drive ultimately aided the team’s work.

“Listen to Max’s comments over the last 10 years. He’s just very direct, he’s very forthright. It just focuses everyone,” said the Red Bull chief.

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Verstappen was ‘disappointed’ with the Red Bull for qualifying and ‘feels like a Go-Kart with no suspension’ after only finishing in sixth in Monaco qualifying

“There was a very good debrief following qualifying where we really dug into what exactly is the sensation from the driver. He put a big effort into spending time with the engineers [after qualifying]. There’s no silver bullet, it’s just about working hard and understanding it.”

Asked what the upgrade plan now was for the RB20, Horner replied: “It’s a continual process. Of course, you’re into the law of diminishing returns and of course, your focus changes depending on what your problems are.

“So I think quite a lot of focus will now take part on, ‘OK, why have we had these ride issues? Why is the car struggling on the kerbs?’ The RB car is running without suspension from last year, didn’t seem to have the same issues. So we need to understand whether it’s something that we’ve introduced.”

Will Red Bull be back on form – or experience similar problems – in Montreal?

Verstappen has won the last two Canadian GPs from pole position and, while also ostensibly a street circuit, the wall-lined Circuit Gilles Villeneuve features significantly faster sections too.

However, the ability of a car to ride the kerbs is also important in Montreal, particularly at the first and final chicanes.

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Highlights of last year’s Canadian Grand Prix

Verstappen said: “It’s still not probably going to be the easiest weekend because of the kerbing and stuff, our car is just not very good at that.

“They resurfaced the track so that might actually bring some unexpected stuff, you never know the grip levels.”

Horner added: “It’s a track that we’ve performed well at previously. They’ve resurfaced the whole circuit again, so let’s see. Ferrari, McLaren – they’re quick. It was always going to happen that there was going to be convergence.”

Indeed, for the first time since September 2021, three races in succession have been one by three different teams.

After Verstappen had appeared to be running away with the championship again after winning four of the new season’s first five grands prix. The one of those he did not win, Australia, he would have been strongly in the running for too had his car not suffered a rare mechanical retirement.

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Sky Sports F1’s Bernie Collins describes the value Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur has brought to the team

But the three grands prix that took place in May provided a different narrative.

Lando Norris broke his F1 duck in Miami for McLaren at the start of the month before the Briton then finished right on Verstappen’s tail in pursuit of another win a fortnight later at Imola. A week later, Leclerc completed the month by ending his near-two-year victory drought on his home ground of Monaco.

The top three in the championship – Verstappen, Leclerc and Norris – are covered by 56 points, just over the equivalent of two race wins, while in the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull’s lead over Ferrari is down to just 24 points in a record-length season where there are still 16 races remaining.

Heading into a period towards the August summer break when there will be six races in eight weeks, Horner said: “I think McLaren made a big step. I think Ferrari’s step was very subtle. So let’s see over the next two or three races.

“We’re now getting into the meat of the championship, Let’s see Montreal, Barcelona, Austria, Silverstone – let’s see over the next few circuits how things pan out. It’s a marathon not a sprint.”

Asked about the three circuits that follow Montreal, Horner said: “We don’t take anything for granted but I think those tracks will play more to the strengths of the car.

“The car’s won five places and had a second place in Miami and won two Sprint races. So it’s not like it’s gone from being a good car to a bad car, it’s just that this circuit hasn’t played to our strengths and we need to understand what are those weaknesses and how do we address them.”

Sky Sports F1’s live Canadian GP schedule

Montreal hosts the ninth round of the 2024 F1 season with the Canadian Grand Prix

Thursday June 6
7.30pm: Drivers’ Press Conference

Friday June 7
6pm: Canadian GP Practice One (session starts at 6.30pm)
8pm: The F1 Show
9.45pm: Canadian GP Practice Two (session starts at 10pm)

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A look back at some of the most dramatic moments from the Canadian Grand Prix

Saturday June 8
5.15pm: Canadian GP Practice Three (session starts at 5.30pm)
8pm: Canadian GP Qualifying build-up
9pm: Canadian GP Qualifying
11pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook

Sunday June 9
5.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday – Canadian GP build-up
7pm: THE CANADIAN GRAND PRIX
9pm: Chequered Flag – Canadian GP reaction
10pm: Ted’s Notebook

Formula 1 leaves Europe for the final time before the summer break as the championship moves on to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix. Watch every session at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve from June 7-9 live on Sky Sports F1, with Sunday’s race at 7pm. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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