Max Verstappen says he hit the wall multiple times and was struggling to judge how much risk to take as rain threatened his lead in the Monaco Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso starting on the hard tire forced Red Bull to keep Verstappen out on medium tires until lap 55, reacting to the Spaniard finally pitting as rain started to fall. Verstappen saw his lead cut from over 13s to around 8s at that point, and says he was trying to balance how hard he pushed with the chance of making a mistake in wet conditions.
“It was quite hectic towards the end,” Verstappen said. “But also I think the whole race was all about management, because Fernando starting on the hard made me do a very long stint, probably almost double to what we would have liked. But because of the rain in the area, we couldn’t really stop.
“I mean, if it would have been nice and sunny, I would have stopped, put the hard tire on, then you catch up and wait until Fernando does his pit stop. But we couldn’t do that because the risk of rain was around so I had to stay out. The tires were graining… I had to go through that graining phase that wasn’t that easy, then luckily it picked up a little bit.
“But then of course it started to rain, and we had really worn tires to go through there. (It) was not really enjoyable; clipped a few barriers, especially on my in-lap I think. It was very, very difficult. But even on the intermediates after that, it was still very slippery through the second sector. It was quite wet there.
“The hard bit is that you have a good lead, but of course you don’t want to risk too much, but you don’t want to drive too slow because then you have no temperature in your tires. So yeah, just trying to find a bit the middle ground initially was a bit tough, but after a few laps I settled in and felt quite comfortable.”
Even in the latter stages, Verstappen appeared to be struggling to find that sweet-spot as he tapped the barrier exiting the Swimming Pool, but says that was due to him trying to keep his level consistently high.
“My engineer was asking me the same thing! It’s more when you’re in a rhythm, to just stay in that. I think I had just one time out of (Turn) 16, I clipped the barrier. I thought I had a bit more margin, and then I touched it and thought, ‘OK, I didn’t have the margin!’
“It was fine. It’s better to be in a rhythm and feel good rather than slow down and get our of your zone, and then also your tires get colder… They were already quite cold. It’s better to stay in that, because I was not overdriving or whatever; I was in the zone.”