The Monaco weekend hasn’t been going too well for the Red Bull F1 driver so far. The reigning world champion was fourth fastest in all three free practice sessions and the same result awaited him in qualifying. A red flag meant the Dutchman failed to set his final fast lap, just like a year ago when Charles Leclerc crashed at the end of qualifying. Verstappen believes he would have been second without a red flag.
“In the end it wouldn’t have been pole, but we worked towards second place throughout qualifying,” Max Verstappen told the Dutch press in Monaco after qualifying, including Motorsport.com† “I was already a tenth faster in the first sector and only six hundredths from P2. And the others weren’t improving at that point. But suddenly these two cars were there. That sucked, of course, but you can’t change that now. That is also the chaos of Monaco.”
Verstappen struggled to get his tires in the right window in qualifying and went out early at the end of Q3 to do an extra lap to prepare his tyres. “I chose a different strategy than the others for my last run, because I simply didn’t get enough temperature in the tires for one lap,” explains the World Cup leader. On his last run, the feeling was much better. Verstappen: “On my second lap I was a bit faster in the first sector and in my first run I left a little too much in turns five, six and seven because of the cold tyres. I was also faster there.”
According to Verstappen, Red Bull had taken another step with the car before qualifying. “We tried out a few things with the car in practice and not everything went well. Then we adjusted a few things for qualifying, in my opinion it was a bit better there,” he says. “I just didn’t always have enough grip at the front. And here in Monaco it is very important that the car turns very quickly. I don’t and then you just lose a lot of time.” The fact that team-mate Sergio Perez was a bit faster than him on Saturday has something to do with that. “He had more of the balance that he wanted. He can drive with a little more understeer, which I like him, but for me the car has to be very strong up front.”
In the third free practice, Red Bull and Ferrari still seemed to be quite close, but in the all-important Monaco qualifying, the Scuderia still seemed to have a nice lead. Charles Leclerc secured pole position by two tenths. According to Verstappen, the Ferrari drivers also drove with the necessary lead in the last practice session. “Well, if you push yourself even more to the limit, then I understand the gap. Even when you see the car turning,” says Verstappen. “Actually, that was to be expected. They always run well in Monaco, so nothing disturbing or anything. Of course you still want to finish second.”
According to the latest weather forecast, there is a good chance of rain during Sunday’s race. The rainwater would be good for Verstappen, because overtaking is particularly difficult in the narrow streets of Monte Carlo. “It’s my only chance to do something, but we’ll see,” said the 24-time GP winner. On a dry track, the options are very limited. “You can’t follow well here with these cars. Everything overheats. So yes, difficult.”