Max Verstappen’s chances of becoming Formula 1’s youngest ever world champion have taken a major blow after he was forced to retire in the early stages of the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was running in a comfortable second place behind eventual race winner Valtteri Bottas before encountering mechanical issues on lap 15.

When asked what the issue was with his Red Bull, Verstappen told Sky Sports: “Well I suddenly just lost power, drive, got put into anti-stall. I don’t know what the problem is yet, I didn’t go back [to the team] yet. We will find out but of course, it’s not how you want to start.

 

 

“I think quite quickly you could see Valtteri was quite quick. I was trying to do my pace. It would have been an easy podium. What can you do about it?''

Team principal Christian Horner was unable to explain what the issue was with Verstappen’s Red Bull but confirmed the issue on his car was not the same as Alexander Albon’s - who also failed to get to the finish. 

“It looks something totally different,'' Horner said. “It looks something on the power unit side with Alex but we don’t know whether that’s a result of the knock that he’s had or a trip through the gravel. We need to get the car back. We turned the engine off as a precaution.

Horner believes Verstappen could have fought for the win due to the issues Mercedes faced in the second half of the race.

“Mercedes was very quick in that first stint but they turned the engines down after the first stop and as soon as they did that they came back into our straight-line speed,” he explained. 

“I think Max on that different strategy, it could have really played out well for him. The positives are that we were able to put together a competitive race but we’ve got some pace to find for this week for next weekend and some work to do. Of course, we will come back in a week's time and try to do a bit better.''

 

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