Verstappen’s sector times reveal Red Bull’s potential compared to Norris

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Verstappen's sector times reveal Red Bull's potential compared to Norris

Max Verstappen has had a very difficult Friday in Italy, with a fifth and seventh place. The Dutchman was therefore very dissatisfied. In the third free practice we heard fewer complaints from the world champion, who ultimately finished the session in sixth place. Yet there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel for the Limburger.

The session ended with McLaren in first and second, and behind them both Ferrari drivers. Anyone who looks at the results of the session below could draw the conclusion that McLaren is head and shoulders above the rest, and that Ferrari is best of the rest, while Red Bull Racing falls significantly short.

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In reality, Max Verstappen’s problem seems to have been partly solved. The Dutchman set his fastest time on the medium tires early in the session, and was the fastest man on the medium rubber. Verstappen made two attempts to set a fast lap on the softest C5 tyres: on the first attempt he was one sector behind when teammate Sergio PĂ©rez crashed and caused a red flag. Verstappen’s one sector was no less than 0.22 seconds slower than Piastri’s, so not promising.

The session resumed once more with two minutes on the clock. With a lap time of one minute and sixteen seconds, it was tight to set another lap time after a quiet warm-up lap, especially in combination with the traffic jam at the end of the pit lane. Lando Norris was the first to get back to the start-finish line, but the others didn’t really get a chance to do another serious lap, and Verstappen even got the flag.

Although Verstappen could no longer drive a valid lap, the Dutchman still had to drive back to the pit lane. The world champion took advantage of that opportunity to go all out until the last corner, and still complete a qualifying simulation, which never appeared on the scoreboards. However, F1Maximaal.nl looked up the sector times, which can be found in the table below.

Sector

Oscar Piastri

Lando Norris

Max Verstappen

1

23,742

24,002

23,875

2

26,232

26,317

26,386

3

25,555

25,510

n/a

Whole round

1:15,529

1:15,829

n/a

So Verstappen was a bit slower than fastest man Oscar Piastri in the first and second sectors, but after two sectors he was faster than Lando Norris, perhaps the favorite for pole position. It is important to mention that Piastri set his fast time under ideal conditions, before the red flag. Norris and Verstappen drove their laps, or in Verstappen’s case, sector times, after the red flag, with almost everyone on the asphalt, and a far from ideal preparation.

This season, Norris is usually faster than Piastri in qualifying, and Verstappen was slightly faster at the same time. Although McLaren may still be considered the favorite, Verstappen should not be completely ruled out. In addition, the Dutchman also showed very competitive times compared to the Ferrari men, and so Verstappen can still hope for a good starting position. Based on the sector times, Verstappen seems to be able to compete with the McLaren drivers, and a place in the top three is still quite possible.

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