“It felt like I was missing a lung” - Verstappen opens up on health struggles

Reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen has admitted he was “physically limited” during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend after suffering from a virus in the lead up to the race.

Verstappen was forced to miss Thursday’s media day in Jeddah after Red Bull confirmed he has been suffering with an intestinal virus.

The Dutchman returned to his Red Bull cockpit for Friday practice, where he dominated up until qualifying.

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A driveshaft issue cost Verstappen a likely pole position, but he was able to recover to finish second behind teammate Sergio Perez despite starting 15th on the grid.

Speaking to the media ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Verstappen revealed that he struggled to “breathe normally” when he first returned to action in FP1 at Jeddah.

“I refused to believe it myself for a long time because at home I was really ill, I could barely just walk around,” Verstappen said. 

“It felt like I was missing a lung. I got to the weekend really believing that it was gone because when you get sick, two or three days after you’re normally alright, you just can do your work outs but then when I jumped in the car in FP1, even just one performance lap, I felt like I had to recover for two laps to be able to breathe normally. 

“It definitely did affect me throughout the weekend which I didn’t like because it was one of the first races. I just felt that I was physically limited and that’s very frustrating. Since then I have been trying to work on it, trying to improve it and I do think it has improved a lot. 

“Normally this weekend should be alright. I think it was all coming together in Jeddah - it’s quite a tough track in general so when you don’t feel well it hits hard on you but these things happen. You catch a virus and stuff. Hopefully from now onwards, for the rest of the year, I should be OK.”

Following the cancellation of April’s Chinese Grand Prix, F1 has a three week break ahead of Baku ahead of the month.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 2, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah, Saudi
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19. Formula 1 World Championship,…

Given his recent health troubles, Verstappen welcomes the extended break.

“Well a couple of weeks ago I would say I wasn’t looking forward to it but I got really ill,” he added. “Just been struggling a bit since that time, especially the last race now. So for me those three weeks are getting back to full fitness, getting a full programme in. 

“In a way it’s probably nice now but normally if you just feel well I would prefer to keep racing.”

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