Verstappen facing tough questions in Jeddah, but no Jos

Verstappen facing tough questions in Jeddah, but no Jos

Verstappen facing tough questions in Jeddah, but no Jos

Max Verstappen will face questions about his future with Red Bull when the triple Formula 1 Champion returns this week to Saudi Arabia and one of the three tracks where he was beaten last season.

The Dutch driver’s father Jos, who will not be at Saturday’s race in Jeddah, caused a commotion in Bahrain last weekend when he said the team was in danger of being torn apart if Christian Horner remained in charge.

Verstappen has not commented on the incendiary remarks, although he did very publicly wish his father a happy 52nd birthday on social media on Monday.  Media reports said Horner was not invited to the birthday dinner in Dubai.

Verstappen, 26, also held back on expressing unqualified support for his beleaguered boss after Horner, 50, was cleared last week of alleged misconduct towards a female employee.

A meeting to clear the air took place in Dubai on Monday between team management and a representative of Verstappen senior, who is due to take part in a regional car rally in Belgium this weekend.

On track, Verstappen will aim to build on his dominant start to the season by taking victory at a floodlit Corniche track where he won in 2022 before team mate Sergio Perez triumphed last year.

“It’s a completely different track layout, a lot more high-speed corners,” he said after Bahrain where he won from pole with fastest lap and leading every lap.

“The Tarmac, of course, is completely different to what it is here, so less degradation. Probably that will help other teams as well compared to us,” Verstappen added.

Jeddah’s smooth surface is the second longest on the calendar and also produces the second highest speeds after Italy’s Monza.

The floodlit night race is being held a day earlier than usual to accommodate Ramadan, starting on Sunday evening.

Verstappen did not win in Jeddah in 2023

Perez: I had a wicked race

Perez won last year from pole position while Verstappen went from 15th to second after suffering a drive-shaft failure in qualifying.

Jeddah, Azerbaijan – where Perez also won – and Singapore (Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz), were the only races on the 22-round calendar where Verstappen did not win last year.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton will be returning to the scene of his most recent win, in December 2021 when Saudi Arabia made its debut.

The Briton was only seventh in Bahrain, with teammate George Russell fifth, when Mercedes made a cooling miscalculation. They are hoping high-speed Jeddah proves a different story.

“We’ve got an opportunity to take a step forward immediately,” said team boss Toto Wolff. “It will be good to continue our learning with the new car on a very different circuit to Bahrain. We will be aiming for a more consistent weekend and to understand our true performance relative to the rest of the grid.”

Ferrari, the team closest to Red Bull in Bahrain despite brake problems with Charles Leclerc’s car, should also be competitive.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was third last year after a penalty was overturned, a result still provoking rumbling within the governing FIA for an alleged intervention by president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

The race weekend also sees the start of the all-female F1 Academy season and the debut of Formula One’s new Aston Martin Vantage safety car.

The safety car has been deployed at all three grands prix held in Jeddah to date, with the 2021 race twice red-flagged. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)