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Max Verstappen would have overtaken Charles Leclerc to move into the lead of the Bahrain Grand Prix if he was ‘smart enough’ to have pulled off a move on the Ferrari man, according to ex-Formula One driver Jan Lammers. The Dutchman was running behind Leclerc for the vast majority of the race at the Bahrain International Circuit before he was eventually forced to retire with a mechanical problem during the last few laps.
Verstappen had a golden chance to move ahead of Leclerc after his first pit stop but found himself unable to take the lead after a lengthy battle with his Ferrari rival. The Red Bull man perhaps should have jumped ahead on his out laps after pitting but failed to make the undercut work on both occasions after being told to go easy until his tyres had warmed up.
He went on to take another bite of the cherry after the safety car was called in with only a few laps remaining but failed to get around Leclerc, who held on to his advantage before the two Red Bull drivers were forced to retire with similar mechanical issues. Verstappen pulled alongside Leclerc before the green flags were waved to restart the race but was very close to the inside of the final corner, allowing the Monegasque driver on the outside to accelerate quicker down the home straight and into Turn One.
Lammers suggested after the race that Verstappen should have taken a wider line in order to maximise his exit speed and give him a fighting chance of passing Leclerc at the safety car restart. “I’m not saying he’s doing anything wrong, but you have to wonder if he was smart enough to go inside,” Lammers explained to Dutch TV station NOS.
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“Leclerc was able to take the momentum into the last corner. [Carlos] Sainz was right down the neck of Verstappen, because he was able to take the corner normally.”
A stronger restart by Verstappen would have ultimately been in vain, though, with the Red Bull driver going on to see his race prematurely ended when he lost power at the end of the next lap. Lammers went on to insist that he felt plenty of sympathy for Verstappen, who struggled with a number of problems during the race before he was eventually forced to retire through no fault of his own.
“It’s so frustrating, because you’re just in that second place,” he added. “And at the moment you talk, you think: ‘Now I still have it.’ But you see that it has a shelf life of twenty to thirty seconds. That’s very difficult to describe, frustration, of course.”
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Verstappen will be able to register his first points of the new F1 season at this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah. Red Bull emerged as one of the early favourites for this year’s Constructors’ Championship title after pre-season testing but will be looking to iron out their reliability issues in order to challenge the likes of Ferrari over the course of the entire campaign.
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