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Formula 1

Verstappen alarmed by ‘very weak’ Red Bull in Monaco

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

Max Verstappen has expressed concerns about Red Bull’s “very weak” performance in Ferrari-dominated Thursday practice in Monaco.

After team-mate Sergio Perez topped first practice, Verstappen was just 0.007s off title rival Lewis Hamilton in the quicker second session – albeit both were nearly four tenths off the surprise pace-setter, the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen frequently expressed frustration with traffic during practice, but he was also displeased with the handling of the car and the downshift settings – and delivered a relatively scathing verdict on the RB16B’s performance in the principality when interviewed by Sky after the session.

Asked whether he’d been hampered by traffic on his soft tyre, he said: “No, we are too slow. And not just a little bit, I think quite a bit.

“So we need to really find some pace. Everyone has traffic so you have to look a bit more to optimum laptimes, optimum sectors, and we’re quite off.”

The 0.007s gap between Verstappen and Hamilton grew to two tenths on theoretical best times – laptimes comprised of three best sectors set by a driver in the session. In that ranking, Verstappen was nearly half a second off Leclerc.

Max Verstappen F1 Monaco GP Red Bull

“It also didn’t feel great to drive,” Verstappen continued. “Normally I’m quite comfortable in the car, quite easily get to a pace.

“But it all takes too long, and just not how I like it. Maybe so far the most difficult weekend [in 2021].”

Like many, Verstappen admitted to being caught out by Ferrari’s pace, but reckoned the impression it made on Thursday was exacerbated by Red Bull’s woes.

“I’m just surprised how competitive Ferrari is,” Verstappen said. “But I think that it shows that we are pretty weak.

“They are doing very well and we are very weak, so the offset is very big.

“So yeah, luckily of course we have a free day tomorrow so we can look at things, but a lot of things need to change, I think.”

Team boss Christian Horner, likewise speaking to Sky, offered a much more positive assessment of Red Bull’s performance despite Ferrari looking “very quick indeed”.

“I think we missed the best of the tyre window, we got a little bit too much understeer on the car at the moment for his [Verstappen’s] liking,” Horner said.

“So that just needs tuning out. I don’t think we’re a mile off – a bit of a tidy-up and we should be right there.”

Horner also said there were no concerns about Perez being six tenths off Verstappen in second practice, as the Mexican “got pretty unlucky on the soft-tyre run, he just never got a clean lap, he’s within a couple of tenths [on pure pace]”.

Sergio Perez Monaco F1 Red Bull

Verstappen was at least able to find space in the narrow gap between the two Mercedes drivers, with Bottas the slower of the W12s by just 0.033s.

Bottas said he was “lacking quite a bit of front end” in his car on Friday.

“We’ve seen similar issues a little bit at some tracks mid-corner, but this is mainly slow-speed corners and if you don’t have the feeling on the front, if it’s going to turn in or not, you can easily lose quite a bit of time,” he said.

“Also it feels like our car feels quite stiff over the bumps and cambers in the corner, it’s quite upsetting.”

Bottas also complained that he struggled to get the tyres to work on the first push lap either and fears “some cars might have a bit of an advantage to us on that”.

He and Hamilton both acknowledged the pace of the Ferraris made them a worthwhile threat to consider, with Bottas claiming “it’s not only going to be about two teams” and Hamilton admitting it was “surprising to see them improve so much but it’s great, it means more competition”.

Valtteri Bottas Mercedes F1 Monaco

Hamilton was the more content of the two Mercedes drivers, calling the car “good” and adding that “we’ve made some steps to the balance and I’m generally really happy”.

Asked if Ferrari looked a serious contender, Hamilton said: “I’m seeing what you’re seeing, and focusing on my job. But it looks like it. We’ll see.”

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