Sure, as a talented young racer, Max Verstappen probably has plenty of gas in the tank, although with two DNFs in the season’s first three races, Red Bull Racing has yet again let down the current defending champion at the Australian Grand Prix.

This Sunday, the Dutchman faced off against championship leader Charles Leclerc, who has delivered yet another win in a series of fantastic qualifying and race performances. Despite keeping up in second place for the majority of the race, however, Verstappen’s RB18 racing car eventually gave out, pulling the driver into his second technical halt as he watched the car burst into flames.

The incident occured on lap 39 of 58, as Verstappen (now in sixth place for the title) noted that a ‘weird fluid’ smell could be sensed, before pulling to the side of the track. Vertappen’s mechanics could be seen scrambling around the car prior to the race, suggesting that Red Bull has serious technical problems to take care of, which he addressed after the race.

““I knew there was a problem, so there was always going to be a question mark over finishing the race, but these kind of things, if you want to fight for the title, cannot happen.”

Several theories have flagged up since Sunday — with some drawing parallels between Max’s mishap and Pierre Gasly’s ‘heated up’ crisis in the Bahrain Grand Prix — marking the second Honda engine to go up in flames this season.

Several fans, however, gleefully took the moment to troll the champion, saying that ‘karma’ was coming back for him after last season’s dramatic finish:

 

Others shared messages of support with the driver, encouraging him to keep pushing for a successful title defense:

Despite the devastating DNF that leaves him, Verstappen seems calm, realistic, and ready to patiently tackle the situation. In a post-race statement, the driver said:

“We’re already miles behind. I don’t even want to think about the championship fight at the moment. I think it’s more important to finish races.”

“Of course today was in general just a bad day again, just not really having the pace, I was just managing my tires, trying to just bring it to the end because it looked like quite an easy P2 anyway.”

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez was left to sweep up an uneventful P2 to Leclerc, as Mercedes scored a notable 27 points as Russell and Hamilton followed suit. 

The season resumes on 22nd April, as the racers return to Europe at the iconic Imola circuit in Italy.

(Featured Image Credits: FIA)