Calm Verstappen accepts early setback, but remains unbowed

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A calm Max Verstappen accepted that his Red Bull's early gearbox failure on Friday had damaged his prospects for success in the opening practice sessions at the Dutch Grand Prix.

But he remained unbowed in his bid to reel off another triumph in his drive to claim a second world championship.

The world champion and runaway leader of this year's title race was brought to a halt after only seven laps of the first session and then struggled to make his usual impact in second practice.

As Ferrari rediscovered their vim and pace on the tight and twisty Zandvoort track in the North Sea resort's sand dunes, the 24-year-old Dutchman was unable to improve on eighth.

Charles Leclerc led the way ahead of Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz and a resurgent seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes, leaving Verstappen to reflect on what had done wrong.

"Missing out on FP1 on the soft tyre was costly," he said. "On the hard tyre, you couldn't really tell the balance because you have so little grip on the tyre.

"So, then you are a session behind -- so we went into FP2 and the balance wasn't great, but in an hour's session you can't really change the car a lot so we just tried to deal with what we had.

"That wasn't great, but we have the night to look over things – and third practice too. For sure, we can do better....”

Fitted with a new gearbox, without a penalty, Verstappen was seven-tenths adrift of Leclerc in the second session. It was an unexpected performance only a week after he had dominated the weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix.

"To be honest, I was not really too surprised when I saw the lap-time differences. Obvously, there are a lot of things we can improve on and, of course, we will be trying to be more a lot more competitive."

Verstappen will be seeking his fourth consecutive victory and 10th of the season in Sunday's race as he bids to increase his 93-point lead in the drivers’ championship ahead of Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez. Leclerc is third, 98 points adrift.

A full house crowd of 105,000 crammed into the seaside circuit for Friday's action and a chance to celebrate the homecoming of the first Dutch world champion, but Ferrari and some mechanical gremlins spoiled the party.

"We will try to do a lot better on Saturday and give the crowd a more fun day," said Verstappen.

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