Max Verstappen expecting a challenge at Monaco Grand Prix

Max Verstappen expecting a challenging Monaco Grand Prix

Max Verstappen is expecting his rivals to put up a challenge in this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen is ready for a challenging Monaco Grand Prix weekend as he believes his rivals are poised to put up a consistent battle against his attempt to claim the drivers’ championship for a record-breaking fourth time.

The three-time champion who is currently leading the series by 48 points ahead of Charles Leclerc of Ferrari after winning five of the opening seven races this year, expressed his concern on Thursday claiming that McLaren and Ferrari could pose a threat to his chances of winning a third race in the French principality on Sunday.

McLaren’s Lando Norris has established himself as a major threat to the reigning world champion in the last two events, securing his maiden race win in Miami and coming in second place in Imola last Sunday.

“It’s one of the more difficult tracks for us,” said Verstappen, who won last Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix by less than a second ahead of Norris. “In the last few years, Ferrari have always been very, very strong here and McLaren, lately, in the last two races, have really ramped up their performance so they are, for sure, ones to watch as well.

“In Monaco, you can always have surprises. Last year, Esteban (Ocon) did an amazing lap in qualifying so these kind of things can happen when someone feels really good, really confident.”

The Red Bull star is aiming to surpass Ayrton Senna’s record-equalling run of eight pole positions to set a new absolute record of nine in Saturday’s qualifying session, which is crucial for Sunday’s race result.

Verstappen revealed that Red Bull is quite concerned about the high kerbs around the street track that is flanked by barriers. It was only at the Singapore Grand Prix last year—another street circuit with high kerbs—that they failed to secure a podium result.

“Our car normally struggles a bit over bumps and kerbs,” said Verstappen. “We did work on it a bit, compared to last year, and I think our low-speed performance has improved a little on most of the tracks we’ve been to this year.

“But I don’t think it’s going to be an easy weekend! Monaco is never straightforward, even when you have the best car. It is so very tricky. You need to get everything to work and there is always a lot of disruption.”

He went on to say he did not want a repeat of what happened at Imola, where he overcame a poor start and two challenging practice days to win by 0.725 seconds after holding off a late challenge from Norris.

“For sure, things have closed up a lot since Miami and now it is very dependent on finding the best set-up,” he added. “We have to be at our best and maybe in the last few races we haven’t been operating at that level.”

Meanwhile, Norris said he was hopeful it could be a good weekend and asked whether he could even mount a title challenge, the 24-year-old said he has set his focus on getting good results.

“I’m – what? Sixty points behind Max,” the McLaren driver said. “It’s a long way to go. I am definitely not thinking about it and it is not going to change anything.

“You concentrate on getting a good result and then things play out for themselves. We have definitely put ourselves in there.”

However, with a third of the season gone, Norris says there is “plenty of opportunity” for him and his team. He added: “There are things coming in the future and, if things start to turn around, we can definitely start coming back at some things.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took pole position in Monaco in both 2021 and 2022, and was third on the grid last year behind Verstappen and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso. He said the challenge of the tight and twisty street circuit was arguably the greatest on the calendar.

“I would be surprised if I am not in the mix for pole at least,” the Monesgaque said. “What you have in Monaco more than the tracks is the risk assessment.

“This is where the driver can make a big difference by taking more risk. It either pays off or not at all. As soon as you try to go a bit more on the limit, you straight away see it on the lap time.

“Coming Q3, you start to get pretty close to the walls but it is exciting. I don’t get that feeling anywhere else on the calendar.”

On the other hand, Lewis Hamilton expressed his belief that Mercedes would have a better weekend in Monaco following some challenging recent races. Additionally, Alonso expressed optimism that his team will have a solid weekend despite an alarming decline in performance over the past two races.

Leave a Reply