Max Verstappen was left in the unfamiliar position of being slower than his Red Bull team mate at the end of Thursday’s free practice sessions for the Monaco Grand Prix.
The Dutch driver was only able to complete 17 laps during the afternoon after engineers had to scramble to repair damage to the RB15.
“In FP2 when everyone went onto a second set of tyres we had a water leak after some debris flew into the air box and damaged one of the radiators,” he explained after the end of the day’s running.
“It meant we had to replace the radiator,” he pointed out. “We had to fix it which obviously lost us some time on track.”
- Hamilton and Bottas stay strong in Monaco second practice
Verstappen was eventually able to return to action in the final quarter of an hour. However by then most teams were on long distance simulations, which meant that his efforts to put in fast qualifying laps continually ran up against traffic.
In the end, the 21-year-old’s best lap clocked in at 1:12.052s, almost a full second slower than the two Mercedes drivers at the top of the timesheets. It put Verstappen in sixth place, but he didn’t seem concerned about the situation or the last track time.
“In general, we look alright and the pace was pretty good. I got enough laps in to feel confident with the car, we tried lots of set-up changes in both sessions and I’m happy with what we have.
“The balance was okay, and generally speaking we have good pace,” he noted. “You always try different things during free practice. Some work, some don’t, but it’s all fine.”
While acknowledging that Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were probably out of reach again this week, Verstappen pointed to the big gap back to third-placed driver Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari as a realistic target.
“Mercedes is still very strong and I don’t think we can fight them for pole, but there is a big gap between second and third which we should be able to fill in qualifying [on Saturday].”
Meanwhile, team mate Pierre Gasly was pleased to end the day fourth fastest on the timing screens. His best lap was 1:11.938s, putting him half a tenth off Vettel in the Ferrari.
“It was a good day and I’m really happy,” he said. “FP1 was a little difficult, but we made some changes for FP2 and I felt a lot better in the car, even in the long runs.
“As we expected, Mercedes are really fast and quite a long way ahead of us, but we can see we’re in a fight with Ferrari. If it’s raining on Saturday then anyone has a chance.
“The team is usually pretty strong here,” he added, referring back to 2018 when the race was won for Red Bull by Gasly’s predecessor Daniel Ricciardo
“There is still some work to do but hopefully we can find even more performance for Saturday, when it’s all about qualifying and getting a good starting position. We’ll do everything we can.”
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