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Formula 1 Austrian GP

Verstappen: Red Bull shouldn't accept being caught by F1 rivals as "normal"

Max Verstappen doesn't want to accept Red Bull being caught by its Formula 1 rivals as an inevitability

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Max Verstappen says his Red Bull Formula 1 team shouldn't accept the new reality of rival squad closing up as "normal".

Red Bull enjoyed two dominant seasons under the current regulations cycle, but while starting on the front foot again with its RB20 it has now seen McLaren close the gap, with Mercedes and Ferrari competitive as well on circuits that suit their cars.

Red Bull's chief engineer Paul Monaghan said the gains the team has been finding in the development of the RB20 have been getting ever smaller, while team boss Christian Horner also felt it was normal for other teams to claw back their deficit over time.

"If you ignore 2023, we are in an amazing year," Horner said. "It is just 2023 was a unicorn and this is normal. This is Formula 1.

"It's normal that there's great teams, there's great drivers, and there's going to be competition. And the benefit of stable regulations is it always converges."

But speaking ahead of this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix, Verstappen doesn't want Red Bull to accept the new normal, or be satisfied with the fact he has still managed to eke out three wins over the last five wins when it hasn't necessarily had the quickest car.

"In general everybody has come closer," he said. "Of course, we had a hugely dominant year last year, even until the last race. And yes, at the moment it's all just a bit more difficult and I think we just have to be honest about that.

"We could say: 'Yes, it's normal'. I don't think it's normal. We always want to be better, and that's why I bring that up.

"I could also say: 'Yes, we won, so it’s fine.’ But of course, I don't look at it that way.

"We do have to keep working hard. If we think this is normal, people are going to overtake us."

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

When asked where he felt McLaren was stronger now, he replied: "It's clear that we are lacking on certain things. McLaren, I feel, just has a better balance, a strong front end, they can attack the corners well without the tyres overheating.

"And they are actually good everywhere. Street circuits, the faster tracks. And of course we are a bit less [competitive] on those street circuits.

"On the kerbs and the bumps, there you have already two things that really need to be worked on.

"The driveability of the car and just the balance as well, but those are things that can't be solved overnight.

"At the moment, it is clear that others have made bigger steps than us."

The world champion says he is personally pushing Red Bull's factory staff to pump out upgrades as soon as possible over the summer months.

"Yes, absolutely. And I'm very busy with it," he explained. "Every day I'm working with the engineers and I also try to push that updates come earlier, that's normal. 

"I am allowed to be critical. If I say: 'Yes, it's all fine. I'll see you guys next week Thursday.’ Then things wouldn’t go well for long. 

"Of course, I have confidence in the continued development with the car overall, but it has to come to fruition in the coming weekends when we put those updates on the car." 

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