Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Max Verstappen drove one of the best laps in Monaco’s 80-year history on Saturday.
In a qualifying shootout that will long be remembered, Verstappen conjured up an electrifying post-death performance to drive Fernando Alonso off pole and knock home favorite Charles Leclerc off the front row.
What was even more remarkable about Verstappen’s performance was that he was two tenths of a second behind Alonso after the first two sectors, but somehow managed to make up the gap and be 0.084s ahead when he crossed the line.
Horner described it as “finishing a lap” at the Saudi Arabian GP almost two years ago when Verstappen was about to deliver a lap from the gods, only to crash into the wall at the final corner.
“I think he did 70 percent of the work (winning the race) in sector three,” said Horner. “I think this lap will go down as one of the best laps ever in Monaco, one of the best of his career. It was stunning.
“Of course I follow live telemetry and in sector one he had his best result and then in sector two around Loews Hairpin was starting to find some time. Then he had a very good 10th and 11th through the chicane, so his mid sector was already building up.
“And then when he got into the pool (the complex), that’s where he lit it, in the part of the (track) where he crashed a few years ago, around the corner that takes up most of it.
“I think he touched every barrier at Rascasse, even going straight out of the last corner. It was obvious how excited he was. It was definitely pinned or thrown away. It was absolutely stunning.”
Verstappen from the top drawer
Winning pole position, Verstappen managed to control the race from the front, despite starting on medium Pirelli tires while others around him were on hard and even through a difficult phase when rain came in and a third of the race remained.
Verstappen’s victory margin of 28 seconds over Alonso was a statement that allowed him to open a 39-point cushion over his nearest rival in teammate Sergio Perez who had a weekend from hell.
“Given the weather, we predicted that there might be some rain towards the end of the race,” said Horner.
“And then when everyone takes the hubcaps off the tires and you see people on the hard and the grid is pretty evenly divided, you think, ‘Fuck! If the medium degrades and the hard ones go into the rain window…” and so on.
“So the first task was to start, which he did quite comfortably. He then set the pace and got a pit stop to (third Esteban) Ocon fairly quickly, and was also able to pull 10 seconds to Fernando in the case of the safety car window.
“He was doing such a good job with the tires at this point that it gave us the longevity to go far enough to see what happens to the weather.
“In retrospect, I think we should have pitted one lap to go to the intermediates, but then he was very mature.
“When the rain came, he rode calmly, put on the tires and closed the race, so Max really had the best ride.”
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