Last-to-eighth shows “we have made some steps forward” – Max Verstappen

by Craig Venn

Max Verstappen believes Red Bull Racing have made another step forward in pace thanks to Honda‘s latest spec power unit, as his charge from the back of the field in the 2019 Italian Grand Prix demonstrates.

Verstappen started nineteenth in Monza courtesy of a grid penalty owing to Red Bull having fitted the newest specification of Honda’s power unit. The race started poorly for the Dutchman as he clipped the rear of Sergio Pérez‘s Racing Point in the congested turn one braking zone.

The contact damaged Vertappen’s front wing and forced him into a lap one pit-stop in which he swapped his Medium compound tyres for Pirelli’s Soft compound and begin his charge through the field.

That charge came to end in eighth place at the finish as Verstappen narrowly missed out on taking seventh away from Pérez. Nonetheless Verstappen remains pleased with his charge through the field, putting it down to making “steps forward with the pace of the power unit.”

“I got front wing damage under breaking into Turn 1 as everyone slowed up and I clipped Sergio’s rear tyre,” explained Verstappen. “We then pitted for a new front wing and the race was still on as I had really good pace in clean air.

“I managed to pass quite a few cars but we got unlucky with the virtual safety car as it came out the lap after I pitted and three or four cars which I had already overtaken were back in front of me.

“I passed them all again but it was pretty painful on my tyres and then at the end I got stuck behind Perez for the second time in the race. I just couldn’t get past him as he was so quick on the straights.

“We have made some steps forward with the pace of the power unit but we will of course keep working hard to improve even further.

“With what happened at Turn 1 coming through to eighth isn’t too bad and these things are always more likely to happen when you start at the back.”

Verstappen’s twenty-one race long run of top five finishes came to an end at the previous race in Belgium and his eighth place in Italy sees his first back-to-back finishes outside the top five since mid-2017.

Both Belgium and Italian Grand Prix were expected to be a weak event for Red Bull Racing and Verstappen now looks ahead to “having a more normal race” next time out in Singapore.

“The last two races were always going to be difficult for us and now I’m looking forward to having a more normal race weekend and starting closer to the front.”

Verstappen’s eighth place in Monza sees him lose touch with Valtteri Bottas in second in the drivers’ standings and sees Charles Leclerc close to within just three points with seven races remaining.

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