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Hulkenberg smirks at Verstappen's Monaco struggles

Hulkenberg smirks at Verstappen's Monaco struggles
© Reuters
Nico Hulkenberg couldn't help but smile when he learned of Max Verstappen's discomfort at the Monaco Grand Prix, where Verstappen's Red Bull, which had previously been dominant, is showing increasing signs of trouble.

Nico Hulkenberg couldn't help but smile when he learned of Max Verstappen's discomfort at the Monaco Grand Prix, where Verstappen's Red Bull, which had previously been dominant, is showing increasing signs of trouble.

"I'm just looking forward to laying in bed," the triple world champion Verstappen said following his narrow victory at Imola just a week ago. "Maybe take some painkillers."

And during practice at Monaco, Verstappen faced an even rougher ride as his car lagged behind competitors, notably Charles Leclerc's Ferrari, leading to a literal "headache" for the Dutch driver, who called his car a "kangaroo".

"I just think that Max is being introduced to the world that the rest of us have lived in for the past year and a half," Hulkenberg commented cheerfully to the Ekstra Bladet newspaper.

"Last year he never had a stiff car. Now he has some of the same problems as the rest of us."

The situation at Red Bull is under intense scrutiny. Team boss Christian Horner, amid a scandal that arguably directly resulted in the departure of Adrian Newey, sees the convergence of team performances under the current regulations as inevitable.

"It's amazing that we've managed to stay ahead for so long," Horner remarked.

Others suggest that Newey's absence from technical meetings is negatively impacting Red Bull, while teammate Sergio Perez feels the team is lagging in development compared to advancing teams like McLaren and Ferrari.

"We haven't made a massive improvement to the car yet," Perez observed, "so they seem to be closing the gap."

Verstappen expressed frustration with his performance in Monaco so far, but Red Bull's consultant Dr. Helmut Marko urged calm.

"We didn't rev the engine to full today - the others did," Marko explained. "And we improved from the first to the second session, which is something we only managed to do in Imola on Saturday."

However, Marko acknowledged, "Leclerc is clearly the favourite. And the Mercedes also look fast."

"Only Leclerc's laps are alarming for us. We didn't use the soft tyres like (Lewis) Hamilton, which distorts the overall picture. But it is Leclerc who is significantly faster, especially in sector one."

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