Max Verstappen says it is nice to see his name at the top of the World Drivers’ Championship for the first time in his career following his Monaco Grand Prix win, but the most important thing for the Dutchman is to be at the top when it matters at the end of the season.
For the first time in his career, the Red Bull Racing driver stood on the podium at the Circuit de Monaco, and he did it in fine fashion by leading from start to finish. And with Lewis Hamilton finishing only seventh, it gave Verstappen the lead in the championship as well.
Verstappen knows that he and Red Bull will need to be on the top of their game and will have to keep pushing if they want to be on top of the standings after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in December.
“It was a very good weekend and of course I’ve never stood on the podium there before so it was very nice to get the win,” said Verstappen. “Taking the lead in the championship feels good but we need to be there at the end of the final race, that’s all that matters.
“Where we are now feels good and of course it shows that we had a decent start to the year but we have to keep on pushing because we still need to improve and do better. Nobody is ever perfect or standing still in this sport.
“So far we have made the smallest mistakes but nothing major and that is why we are first at the moment but we all know it can change very quickly.”
Verstappen was pleased with how Red Bull pulled together between Thursday’s practice in Monaco and Saturday’s running to ensure he had a competitive car, and he was able to put in a mistake-free run thereafter to take pole position and then the victory.
“We struggled on Thursday in practice but the Team put a lot of work into making sure that the car was a lot better on Saturday,” said the Dutchman. “At the start of the weekend we didn’t have it quite right and it wasn’t all easy, but everyone analysed the data very well and made the car very competitive again for qualifying so we could be in the fight.
“It’s also very easy to make a mistake around Monaco, you have to keep focussed lap after lap, but last Sunday it felt really good to be leading the race and controlling it. I was not going to throw away my first Monaco win that’s for sure.”
This weekend’s sees the Azerbaijan Grand Prix return to the calendar after it was absent from the 2020 season due to COVID-19. And although Verstappen says it is not one of his favourite events, he is eager to stand on the podium there for the first time this weekend.
He also expects the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team to bounce back from their disappointing Monaco weekend with a strong performance at the Baku City Circuit.
“The track is ok but probably not a favourite of mine if I’m honest,” added Verstappen. “I’ve never been on the podium there so it’s time to change that.
“Let’s see how competitive we are, I do expect Mercedes to come back strong there though.”
“We just have to improve our Saturdays and then we should be fine” – Sergio Pérez
Team-mate Sergio Pérez recovered from a disappointing Qualifying in Monaco to finish a strong fourth, with the Mexican using the overcut to good use to jump three cars during the pit stop cycle.
Pérez was running behind Sebastian Vettel, Pierre Gasly and Hamilton in the first stint, but he made his pit stop later than the three ahead of him, and when he exited the pit lane, he found himself clear of them all.
“I’m happy that in the end we managed to have a good result, especially given where we qualified after a poor Saturday,” said Pérez. “It was very tough mentally.
“As always, Monaco is just hard to keep the car out of the walls whilst being on the limit. Especially you need to know when to push and when not to, that is the key!
“The result on Sunday is a big boost for the Team and we’re definitely looking forwards to keeping it up there, but we cannot forget that it’s only race five of the season and there’s still a very long way to go.”
Azerbaijan has been kind to Pérez in the past, with the Mexican having stood on the podium there during his time with the Sahara Force India F1 Team. And he hopes this is the weekend where he puts it all together, both in Qualifying and in the race.
“I’m really looking forward to Baku and I hope we can put a strong qualifying together because we’ve proved that our race pace is right up there with the best,” said the Mexican. “We just have to improve our Saturdays and then we should be fine.”