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Max Verstappen will arrive in Saudi Arabia a day later than planned ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix after being struck down with a stomach bug. Both the Dutchman and Red Bull have issued statements explaining his absence, with his preparation for the race under threat.

Verstappen got his second consecutive world title defence off to the perfect start two weeks ago by crossing the line first in Bahrain. Many expect the 25-year-old to power on towards a third championship with Red Bull once again establishing themselves as the class of the field.

Team boss Christian Horner had warned that the race could tighten up in Jeddah this weekend, however, and his prediction could come true with Verstappen falling ill this week. The Red Bull star was due to appear on track this Thursday but was forced to postpone his flight for a day due to illness. 

Verstappen claims that normal service should resume on Friday, when two practice sessions are scheduled to take place.

“Feeling fine again, after not being fit for a few days because of a stomach bug,” he on Twitter. “Therefore, I unfortunately had to postpone my flight for a day, so I won’t be on the track until Friday. See you in Jeddah!”

Meanwhile, Red Bull’s official Twitter account added: “Max has been suffering from a stomach illness over the past few days and, with the agreement of the FIA, will not be present at track today. Feel better, Max.”

“I think he will be very, very confident,” explained the Brit. “I don’t think he will slip up,” Hamilton affirmed. “He’s a World Champion, so I wouldn’t question his determination and his focus. I think he will be just as focused as ever and it’s our job to catch up.”

Hamilton lashed out at the Mercedes team for ‘not listening’ to his concerns about their car for this year following the Bahrain Grand Prix, during which the 38-year-old took fifth place.