Suggesting that the Formula 1 grid has never been tighter than it is right now, 13-time race winner David Coulthard does not believe the F1 2024 World Championship is guaranteed for Max Verstappen.

Verstappen and Red Bull unleashed record-breaking dominance upon their rivals in 2023, winning 21 of the 22 races with Verstappen claiming 19 of those, but as F1 2024 approaches its halfway stage, the competition has grown much sterner.

Max Verstappen F1 2024 World Champion not ‘a slam dunk’

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

After winning four of the opening five races, Verstappen has since faced on-track attacks from McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes with the challenge at the front getting tougher.

McLaren’s Lando Norris scored a first career win in Miami, before Verstappen narrowly held off the Brit to strike back in Imola. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took the chequered flag in Monaco, before Verstappen won out in a thrilling race-long battle against Norris and Mercedes’ George Russell to win the Canadian Grand Prix.

A visit to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has not triggered the return of Red Bull’s dominance that rivals were wary of, the gap from race winner Verstappen to second-placed Lando Norris standing at just two seconds.

While speaking on Channel 4, it was put to Coulthard that he has been talking of closer competition across the F1 grid all season, to which he replied: “Yeah, and the reason I’ve been saying it, is if you look at the actual lap time across the 20 cars that are there, it’s closer than it’s ever been in the history of the sport.

“Everyone has got closer to Red Bull. We’ve seen therefore, Checo [Perez], who has been on average two or three-tenths slower than Max, has started to slip towards the back end of the top 10. So Max is having to really work to get those victories.

“This is going to continue to ebb and flow depending on whether the track suits your car, whether your development profile is working for you throughout the remainder of the season.

“So I don’t think it’s a slam dunk that this is Max Verstappen’s World Championship.”

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Speaking to media including after qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix – where he was pipped to pole by Norris – Verstappen admitted that Red Bull’s dominant ways are now “completely gone”.

Asked if this is a wake-up call for Red Bull, he told media including “I think we are pretty much very awake already with what’s happening.

“We need to push on, we need to bring parts faster, better.

“We had a very dominant car last year. That is completely gone, naturally, and we just need to really try and make a step ahead again.”

Verstappen, though, still has a healthy buffer at the top of the Drivers’ Championship after winning in Spain; he’s 69 points clear of Lando Norris.

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2024-06-25T06:54:18Z dg43tfdfdgfd