Verstappen: Red Bull can’t afford slip-ups even with "great lead"

Max Verstappen has warned that Red Bull cannot afford any slip-ups in the Formula 1 title race despite its “great lead” heading into the summer break.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18

Verstappen scored his eighth victory of the season in Hungary last weekend to extend his advantage over Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the drivers’ championship to 80 points.

It came despite an engine issue in qualifying that forced Verstappen to start the race from 10th place on the grid, and a spin during the race that cost him a couple of positions.

But Verstappen warned that even with such a healthy points buffer, Red Bull had to remain vigilant to avoid any mistakes that could cost it ground in the battle against Leclerc and Ferrari.

“Of course, it’s a great lead,” Verstappen said after the race in Hungary.

“But we cannot have too many days like we had [on Saturday]. And even [in the race] we had a few little issues with the clutch and the upshifts, which was not great to drive.

“Overall, of course, it's good, but we just keep on working, keep on trying to improve things.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Reliability proved to be Red Bull’s achilles’ heel in the early part of the season as Verstappen failed to finish two of the opening three races, allowing Leclerc to surge 46 points clear of the Dutchman after Australia.

The tables quickly turned at the front as Ferrari paid the price for reliability woes and strategy miscues, leaving Red Bull 97 points clear in the constructors’ standings going into the summer break.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner echoed Verstappen’s warning against complacency despite admitting the points tables “look healthy” right now.

“It's a great way to sign off into the summer break, but [there is] still a lot of racing to go,” Horner said.

“Ferrari are quick, Mercedes are coming back into the game. There's still a long, long way to go in this championship, plus a sprint race.

“So we don't take anything for granted. There's still a lot of racing to do. And they're very different venues.”

Verstappen’s haul of eight wins so far this year has put Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher’s shared record of 13 victories in a single season within the defending world champion’s reach with nine races remaining.

But Verstappen gave little thought to his chances of beating the record when it was put to him after his Hungary win.

“I don't know, we’ll of course try to win as many as we can in the remaining races we have,” said Verstappen.

“But of course, more importantly, we have to keep the lead in the championship. That's, of course, what we have to try and secure.”

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