Verstappen Grumbles Despite Driving From 15th Place to 2nd

Formula One F1 - Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - March 19, 2023 Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates with a trophy on the podium after finishing second place in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. (Reuters)
Formula One F1 - Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - March 19, 2023 Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates with a trophy on the podium after finishing second place in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. (Reuters)
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Verstappen Grumbles Despite Driving From 15th Place to 2nd

Formula One F1 - Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - March 19, 2023 Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates with a trophy on the podium after finishing second place in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. (Reuters)
Formula One F1 - Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - March 19, 2023 Red Bull's Max Verstappen celebrates with a trophy on the podium after finishing second place in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. (Reuters)

First he had a stomach bug that delayed his arrival at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Then a mechanical failure in qualifying dropped Max Verstappen deep on the starting grid.

So recovering for a second-place finish should have been reason to celebrate, right?

Not for the two-time reigning Formula One world champion.

Verstappen barely even praised Red Bull's second straight 1-2 finish after he rallied from 15th to finish behind teammate Sergio Perez at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on Sunday. Verstappen won the the season-opener in Bahrain, with Perez second.

Not even earning a bonus point for logging the fastest lap of the race — a point that kept Verstappen atop the F1 standings — could ease his frustration.

“The whole feeling in the team, everyone is happy. But personally, I’m not happy,” Verstappen said after the race. “Because I’m not here to be second, especially when you are working very hard back at the factory to make sure that you arrive here in a good state, and basically making sure that everything is spot on.”

The 25-year-old Dutchman had to delay his trip to Jeddah by a day because of a stomach bug. Then, a driveshaft issue hindered him in Saturday's qualifying and prevented him from challenging for the pole.

Starting 15th would have meant simply trying to squeeze out a solid finish for most drivers. But not Verstappen, who charged through the field as if his rivals were parked.

Even so, a distracted-sounding Verstappen complained about feeling weird sensations from the driveshaft late in the race.

All those factors ranked higher to him than how he clawed his way back to a near-victory. He didn't even seem to care that his fastest lap nudged him one point ahead of Perez in the championship lead in what looks increasingly likely to be a straight Red Bull shootout for the title.

“If that’s the case it’s fairly simple, right?” said Verstappen. “We are allowed to race, so the best one will finish in front.”

Verstappen is a perfectionist on the track and so he struggles handling imperfections. He has the fastest car on the grid but it grates him — and perhaps overly so — when there are glitches beyond his control.

It got to him last year when reliability issues forced him to retire from two of the first three races, and several times in previous seasons he'd also struggled to contain his temper when mechanical or engine problems affected his races.

His frustration in Jeddah was compounded by the fact he led all three practice sessions leading up to qualifying.

“It's not only about the pace of the car, we need to make sure we are reliable without any issues. After three positive practice sessions, I have an issue in qualifying," Verstappen said. “Of course, I recovered to second, which is good.”

Yet the manner of how he finished second bugged the driver who won a record 15 F1 races last year.

“You have to do a recovery race, which I like — I mean, I don’t mind doing it,” he said. “But when you’re fighting for a championship, and especially when it looks like it’s just between two cars, we have to make sure that also the two cars are reliable.”

Next up is the Australian Grand Prix on April 2 — a race where Verstappen's never won and retired twice.

“We have to do better,” Verstappen said. “Just have a cleaner weekend. I think that would be nice as well.”



Italian Coaches are Dominating the Dugouts at Euro 2024. The Coaching School is the Reason Why

Italian Coach Luciano Spalletti - File/The AP
Italian Coach Luciano Spalletti - File/The AP
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Italian Coaches are Dominating the Dugouts at Euro 2024. The Coaching School is the Reason Why

Italian Coach Luciano Spalletti - File/The AP
Italian Coach Luciano Spalletti - File/The AP

Italy continues a tradition at the European Championship with Italian coaches — this time five — in charge of national teams at the tournament in Germany.

Italy coach Luciano Spalletti is joined by Vincenzo Montella (Turkey), Domenico Tedesco (Belgium), Marco Rossi (Hungary) and Francesco Calzona (Slovakia).

With five of the 24 teams in Germany led by Italians, this tops the Netherlands’ mark of having three coaches — out of 16 teams — at Euro 2008.

All but Tedesco studied at the Italian federation’s coaching school, which is directed by former coach Renzo Ulivieri, who is also the president of the Italian soccer coaches’ association, The AP reported.

“It is a great source of pride for all of Italian soccer and especially for our coaching school,” Ulivieri said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“We think that our coaches are excellent, for two reasons: ours is a good school and then the coaches have a very educational apprenticeship within our leagues, both in the professional leagues but also in the amateur ones, where tactics play a huge part.”

The strength is evident not only in the national teams but also at the club level. Carlo Ancelotti, one of the most famous Italian coaches, won his fifth Champions League title this month when Real Madrid beat Borussia Dortmund 2-0 in the final.

Atalanta, under Gian Piero Gasperini, won the Europa League, beating Leverkusen 3-0. Only Fiorentina's narrow 1-0 loss to Olympiakos in the Europa Conference League final under coach Vincenzo Italiano prevented Italian managers from sweeping the European titles.

“The secret (to Italian managerial success) is our predisposition to the art of making the best out of everything, even in difficult situations,” Ulivieri added. “An Italian-Neapolitan art, which is often useful in being a coach.”

Luciano Spalletti The best known of the Italian coaches at the tournament, Spalletti also got the highest marks.

Spalletti attended the FIGC’s coaching school in 1998-99 and graduated with the maximum grade attainable: 110 cum laude. He wrote his thesis on “The 3-5-2 playing system.”

Spalletti took charge of Italy last year, shortly after quitting Napoli. He led the southern team to its first Serie A title in more than three decades.

That also ended a lengthy wait for his first Italian league title despite coaching teams such as Inter Milan and Roma. He won Italian Cup titles with Roma in 2007 and 2008 and then Russian league trophies with Zenit St. Petersburg in 2010 and 2012.

The 65-year-old Spalletti has brought his all-attacking style and flair to a reinvigorated Italy.

However, the Azzurri have had a stuttering start to their title defense. Italy beat Albania 2-1 in their opening match before being completely outclassed in a 1-0 loss to Spain.

Vincenzo Montella Montella was also one of the top students in class, with a final mark of 110/110 at the end of his course in 2011.

Montella took charge of Turkey’s national team last year but has been living in the country since 2021 as coach of Super Lig team Adana Demirspor.

The 50-year-old had previously coached Fiorentina, AC Milan and Sampdoria among others in his native country as well as Sevilla in Spain. His only trophy as coach was the Italian Super Cup with Milan.

Montella was a prolific forward during his playing career and helped Italy to the Euro 2000 final.

“As a student at the school, Montella was exactly like he was when he was a player: a stellar kid, also studious,” Ulivieri said.

Turkey won its opener 3-1 against debutant Georgia but Montella's team will face a much tougher task against Portugal on Saturday.

Francesco Calzona Slovakia may be Calzona’s first job as head coach but the 55-year-old has had an impressive apprenticeship.

Calzona was assistant coach to Maurizio Sarri at Napoli from 2015-18. He was also part of Spalletti’s staff at the Serie A team and helped lay the foundation for its run to the league title.

Calzona left in August 2022, before the title-winning season, when former Napoli and Slovakia captain Marek Hamsik — who holds his country’s appearance and goalscoring records — suggested he take over as the coach of Slovakia’s national team.

After steering Slovakia to Euro 2024, Calzona was given his first senior role at club level when Napoli turned to him in February as its third coach in a disastrous season. He was given a contract for the remainder of the season and allowed to do both jobs.

Slovakia pulled off the biggest shock of Euro 2024 so far when it beat Belgium in their opener. It lost its second group match to Ukraine.

Marco Rossi After several years of coaching in the lower leagues of Italian soccer and then finding himself without a club for a year, Rossi considered joining his brother’s accountancy firm.

But a chance meeting with the sporting director of Honved at a restaurant in Budapest led to him to take charge of the Hungarian team.

The 59-year-old Rossi had two spells with Honved and led the team to its first Hungarian league title in 24 years in 2017. He also coached a Slovakian team before being appointed Hungary coach in July 2018.

Rossi steered Hungary to Euro 2020 but lost its opener to Portugal and was eliminated at the group stage despite impressive draws against France and Germany.

Hungary lost both its matches so far at this year's tournament, to Switzerland and Germany.

Domenico Tedesco The youngest of the Italian coaches, Tedesco was also the only one not to study at the federation’s coaching school.

The 38-year-old Italian-German was appointed as Belgium coach in February last year but has quickly built a solid and entertaining team that was unbeaten in his tenure until the shock loss to Slovakia.

Tedesco emigrated from Italy to Germany with his family when he was 2 years old. He began his coaching career with the youth squads at Stuttgart when he was just 22, while also working at the Mercedes factory.

Tedesco obtained his coaching license in Germany and was top in a class that included current Germany coach Julian Nagelsmann. He coached the senior teams at Schalke, Spartak Moscow and Leipzig, which he led to the German Cup in 2022.