Are Red Bull Finally Showing Vulnerability After Two Years of Dominance?

One or two more laps. At the end of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on Sunday, Lando Norris insisted that was all he needed to pass Max Verstappen and take the top step of the podium for the second consecutive race.

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He might be correct. By the time the checkered flag flew, the McLaren driver had reduced the lead to just 0.7 seconds from a lead of up to eight seconds with twenty or so laps remaining, having already managed to block Charles Leclerc’s challenge. Both Verstappen and Norris were pushing their machines to the limit, no holds allowed.

Could Norris have really passed Verstappen at the last moment on an Imola circuit with just one DRS zone? We’ll never be aware of it. Though the race was mostly quiet for the first sixty-three laps, the unexpected late charge does reveal that Red Bull is no longer the unstoppable, unstoppable juggernaut of 2023.

Most Formula 1 fans are relieved that the chasing pack is now gradually eroding their lead.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner stated, “The first half [of the race] was very strong, but the second half of that last stint, Lando started to catch us very quickly.” “With the most recent modifications, the cars are convergent, with remarkably identical looks. Both McLaren and Ferrari demonstrated exceptional speed at this circuit.

McLaren unsure Norris could have passed Verstappen to win F1 Imola GP

We already know that the gap is narrowing from this season. Red Bull won an incredible 21 races out of 22 last year, but after seven grands prix this year, they have already lost twice.

Critics can argue that a safety car caused Norris’ victory in Miami and that Carlos Sainz’s victory in Australia was caused by a mechanical issue with Verstappen’s car. But in Florida, much like in the last stages of Imola, Norris took the lead but eventually lapped the Dutchman considerably more quickly. If Charles Leclerc can execute a flawless lap in the closing phases of qualifying, it appears that Ferrari will also be a threat.

However, it’s evident that the Red Bull beast is displaying signs of weakness and disintegration. It seems like a sliding door when Adrian Newey leaves after 19 years next year, most likely to join Ferrari. Even though Verstappen still has the fastest vehicle, the ongoing drama surrounding Christian Horner and a female coworker accusing him of “coercive behaviour” has not helped and has sparked questions about his long-term future with the team.

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Given the enormous advantage they have enjoyed, it is also feasible that Red Bull has reached a point where their development of this car model has reached a ceiling after two years of dominance.

Sergio Perez is another. The second driver on the team said at the beginning of April that he would know his plans for 2025 “within a month,” but after six weeks, it is unclear whether or not he will remain at Red Bull for the upcoming season. The Mexican had a terrible weekend at Imola, finishing third in the drivers’ standings behind Leclerc and not even making it to the third round of qualifying while his teammate was on pole. Yuki Tsunoda is undoubtedly putting pressure on himself following another strong performance with Red Bull’s sister team this past weekend.

Horner names unsung hero in Red Bull's F1 Imola GP recovery – Motorsport  Week

Except for Mercedes, who acknowledge that they are currently in a bit of a “no-man’s land” in fourth place overall, Red Bull’s rivals are, nevertheless, closing the gap. Ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s arrival in 2025, Ferrari made headlines this week by snatching up two important Mercedes execs. Newey may be joining them soon.

The last year has seen an amazing comeback for McLaren as well. Team principal Andrea Stella and CEO Zak Brown oversaw the hiring of former Red Bull designer Rob Marshall and established a novel position for a technical director that has three responsibilities: engineering, aerodynamics, and performance lead, which Stella is currently filling in for.

F1 Driver Ratings - Emilia Romagna GP 2024 - Total Motorsport

With Norris and Oscar Piastri as a youthful and promising driver combination, the papaya has a bright future ahead of it.

“Andrea and his team are doing an amazing job,” Brown remarked following the race on Sunday. “The car continues to accelerate.” We may have made Max perspire a tiny bit for the first time today. He was clearly using all of his effort, pushing himself to the maximum.

“We should be able to win a couple more races this year,”

After seven races, Verstappen still has a sizable lead: he is 48 points ahead of Leclerc in second place and 60 ahead of Norris in fourth. But this weekend, as they approach the unusual curves and twists of Monaco, an anomalous circuit, Red Bull and Verstappen are finally having to check their shoulders. present will be a tinge of concern now, instead of the contempt that was present before.