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Red Bull ‘severely off pace’ says Verstappen, as he brushes off Hamilton close-call

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IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 17: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing prepares to

Max Verstappen faced a challenging opening day of action at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, with the Dutchman stating that Saturday “can’t be worse” than Friday’s running after he struggled to feel comfortable in his Red Bull.

After reporting a lack of grip during Free Practice 1 – a session in which he had more than one trip across the grass – Verstappen’s fortunes did not improve much in the day’s second practice hour, where he continued to experience the same issue with his RB20.

READ MORE: FP2: Leclerc stays in front during second practice in Imola from Piastri and Tsunoda

He ultimately ended the session in P7 on the timesheets and, after jumping out of the car, spoke of the problems he had experienced.

“A difficult day,” Verstappen commented. “[It was] just difficult to get a good balance, and [I was] just not really feeling comfortable in the car. Moving around a lot, it’s very easy to lose the car, so [there are] a few things that we have to look at because today [was] just bad, just not comfortable.

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“Also the long run was really bad, so definitely a few things that we have to improve if we want to be competitive tomorrow.”

On whether he and the team can carry out work overnight and bounce back on Saturday, Verstappen said with a smile: “I guess it can’t be worse than what we had today! We’ll look at a few things that we can do better for tomorrow, but it looks a bit like the others took a bit of a step forward, and from our side just a bad day.”

READ MORE: FP1: Leclerc leads Russell and Sainz during first practice in Imola as Albon brings out red flags

As well as the issues he experienced with his car, Verstappen also showed his frustration during FP2 after encountering a slow-moving Lewis Hamilton on the approach to the hairpin, with the Mercedes driver raising a hand to apologise for the incident.

Asked for his perspective on what happened, the reigning world champion responded: “It’s not the first time. You try to of course always stay calm about it, but it happened again.

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 17: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing

Verstappen believes that Red Bull have work to do ahead of Saturday's track action in Imola

“I also don’t really want to talk about it too much because that’s not our issue. Today we were just severely off pace, that we need to fix.”

Hamilton took responsibility for his run-in with Verstappen when offering his version of events after the session.

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“I was on a cool-down lap,” the Briton explained. “I thought I was well clear, would’ve been well clear, but all of a sudden he was right on me.

“Ultimately it was my mistake and I tried to apologise, but he was too frustrated.”

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