Max Verstappen breaks down as George Russell sets early pace at Dutch GP

F1 champion-elect Max Verstappen gave his rivals a glimmer of hope after breaking down just 10 minutes into first practice at the Dutch Grand Prix.

Verstappen shocked his thousands of the home fans when he ground to a halt on the track at Zandvoort with smoke coming out of the back of his Red Bull. The world champion immediately pinpointed the problem, telling his engine over team radio: “Something went with the gearbox.”

The issue immediately ended Verstappen’s session and could even land him with a grid penalty if key parts need to be changed. While Verstappen had a grid penalty in Belgium last weekend and still coasted to a dominant victory, overtaking on the tight and twisty Zandvoort circuit is much more difficult than at Spa.

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Reporting from the Red Bull garage, Sky Sports F1 pitlane report Ted Kravitz said: “It’s a rather shocked and stunned Red Bull garage. A lot of these engineers will know exactly what happened with that gearbox, whether it is part they inspected earlier today or something else, whether they’ve lost some fluid and that could have caused the smoke.

“That doesn’t change the fact that is the rest of the session gone for Max Verstappen. Yeah, so not only crowd [are shocked] but everybody in the Red Bull because they want a perfect weekend.”

The issue occurred just a few minutes after Red Bull team boss Christian Horner had congratulated Verstappen on being appointed Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau, a royal decoration, the Dutch equivalent of the British OBE/MBE honour.

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Speaking over team radio at the start of the session, Horner said: “From everyone in the team, congratulations on your honour yesterday. We're not quite sure what to call you, whether it’s Sir Max, Lord Max or Super Max, but well done.”

Verstappan replied: “Just call me Max like always.”

In Verstappen's absence, Mercedes enjoyed an excellent first session, with George Russell topping the timesheets ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

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