Max Verstappen says he hit the wall multiple times and had trouble judging how much risk to take when rain threatened his lead at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso, starting on the hard tyre, forced Red Bull to hold back Verstappen on the medium tires until lap 55, reacting to the Spaniard finally pitting when it started to rain. Verstappen saw his advantage drop from over 13 seconds to around 8 seconds and says he was trying to balance how hard he pushed with the chance of making a mistake in wet conditions.
“It was pretty hectic towards the end,” said Verstappen. “But I also think the whole race was about management because Fernando, starting on hard surfaces, forced me to do a very long run, probably almost twice as much as we would have liked. But due to the rain in the area we couldn’t stop.
“I mean if it was nice and sunny I would stop, put on a hard tire and then you catch up and wait for Fernando to make his pit stop. But we couldn’t do that because there was a risk of rain so I had to stay outside. The tires were rubbing… I had to go through this phase, which was not easy, but luckily it improved a bit.
“But then of course it started to rain and we really used the tires to get there. (It) wasn’t really pleasant; I broke a few barriers, especially on my lap. It was very, very difficult. But even on the later transitions in the second sector it was still very slippery. It was quite wet there.
“The tricky thing is you have a good lead, but of course you don’t want to risk too much, but you don’t want to go too slow because then you don’t have temperature in your tires. So yeah, trying to find some middle ground was a bit tricky at first, but after a few laps I settled in and felt pretty comfortable. “
Even in the later stages, Verstappen seemed to struggle to find that sweet spot as he tapped the barrier coming out of the pool, but says it was because he was trying to keep his level at a consistently high level.
“My engineer asked me the same thing! It’s more than that, when you’re in the rhythm, just stay in it. I think I only had one time out of (turn) 16, I crossed the barrier. I thought I had a little more margin, then I touched it and thought, “OK, I had no margin!”
“It was fun. It’s better to be in the rhythm and feel good than to slow down and get out of your zone and then the tires will be cold too… They were pretty cold already. Better to stay in it because I wasn’t overdoing it or anything; I was in the zone.”