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Verstappen says Mercedes Imola pace ‘no surprise’, as he reveals cause of FP2 failure

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Max Verstappen’s favourite status for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix failed to help him on Friday’s running at Imola, as he was pipped in the first practice session by both Mercedes – while in Free Practice 2, an issue on his RB16B prevented the Dutchman from completing a representative qualifying simulation lap.

Verstappen wound up third in FP1 and right in the fight with Mercedes, his time just 0.058s slower than session leader Valtteri Bottas, and 0.017s behind the sister Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton – although Verstappen had a fast final lap ruined by a late red flag for Nikita Mazepin's spin.

READ MORE: Steiner says Mazepin 'sometimes tries too hard' as Russian suffers two further spins in FP1 at Imola

But the fight between the two teams in FP2 failed to materialise when Verstappen suffered an issue on his Red Bull that caused him to pull up just 11 minutes into the session, before failing to make it back on track.

“I had a driveshaft issue so I had to stop the car,” explained Verstappen. “I like Italy, the food is good, I enjoy being here, but just the driving part so far hasn’t been the luckiest… but you know what you have to do anyway so it should be alright.”

2021 Emilia Romagna GP FP2: Verstappen’s engine fails at Imola

Asked whether he’d been impressed by the pace of the Mercedes, meanwhile – with Bottas heading a second Mercedes one-two of the day in FP2, despite setting his fastest time on medium tyres – Verstappen replied: “Yeah – but it’s no surprise to be honest, so we just have to focus on ourselves to do a better job and then we’ll see where we will end up compared to them.

“Of course it’s a bit difficult to say now for the second session how we would have been,” he added. “But nothing shocking, so we just need to see what we can do better tomorrow in terms of balance. But of course first we have to make sure that nothing breaks!”

FP2: Bottas quickest as Verstappen stops on track and late Leclerc shunt halts second practice early

Red Bull will now hope to regroup as Verstappen attempts to claim his third consecutive pole position on Saturday, with his current run stretching back to the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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