F1 Canadian Grand Prix: More concern for Max Verstappen and Red Bull in FP2

The Formula 1 grid arrived in Montreal for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, with dreams of a true title fight dancing in the minds of fans.

Friday’s two practice sessions perhaps added to those dreams.

Free practice one was largely a washout, as heavy downpours and even some hail worked through the area in the moments before FP1 began. While the hail eased off, as did the rain, the first practice session began with pit lane closed as marshalls tried to dry out the track.

In fact, that effort involved some of the best action of the early afternoon:

When cars — F1 cars that is — finally took to the circuit, they did so in wet conditions and with the green-walled intermediate tires bolted on. Most drivers only completed a handful of laps, and FP1 ended with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in P5:

Things only got worse from there in FP2.

The track was dry and the rain was holding off as the second practice session began, but around the midway mark of FP2 Verstappen pulled down pit lane, reporting a smell of smoke in the cockpit. He pulled into the box and was pushed back into the garage, immediately hopping out of the RB20 after just a handful of laps in the session.

Shortly thereafter, Red Bull team members pulled out the yellow caution tape, a sign that the team was concerned about an electrical failure on the RB20:

Workers began breaking down the RB20, and a “Red Bull wall” soon formed to block TV cameras and media members from catching a glimpse of what was happening with Verstappen’s car:

Verstappen did not return to FP2, and finished the session in P18.

The driver had this to say following FP2:

Why might this matter for Red Bull? A few reasons. First, the small picture, as it were. Red Bull and Verstappen took on a number of new elements for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, including a new internal combustion engine (ICE), a new turbocharger, a new motor generator unit-heat (MGU-H), a new motor generator unit-kinetic (MGU-K), and a new exhaust system:

The team faces a race against time to make sure that those components are ready to go tomorrow, and with a curfew coming later tonight, that will not be an easy process for Red Bull.

Complicating matters, if those components have failed and Verstappen has to take new ones for the rest of the weekend, that only cuts into the number he is allowed over the course of a year. Which could lead to grid penalties for Verstappen before the season is over, as alluded to by Verstappen in the above quote.

Now, the big picture.

Much has been said and written about a potential title fight forming, given the recent success from Ferrari and McLaren and a bunching up at the top of both the Drivers’ and the Constructors’ Championship standings. While last season, for example, Red Bull and Verstappen could afford a down weekend, that is not that case at the moment.

Instead, the team is facing a race against not only time, but two rival teams in Ferrari and McLaren that are closing the gap.


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