Max Verstappen says he could not have asked from any more from his Dutch Grand Prix weekend, but the Red Bull Racing driver is already focused on this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Verstappen took pole position and dominated the race last weekend to secure his seventh victory of 2021 and retake the lead in the Drivers’ Championship from Lewis Hamilton, but with the battle at the top extremely tight, there was little time to celebrate before heading to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza for the next challenge.
“I couldn’t have asked for more in Zandvoort but now it’s all eyes on Monza,” said Verstappen. “The Italian Grand Prix is only around the corner and it’s very tight in the championship so the celebrations can wait and some rest between the race weekends will be important.”
Verstappen is expecting Monza to suit the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team better than Red Bull, although he is expecting it to be a much closer battle than it has in previous years thanks to the development of the RB16B and the Honda power unit.
“I expect Monza to suit Mercedes as it hasn’t been our best track for the last few years but this year we are more competitive so you never know,” said the Dutchman. “If we continue what we have been doing, working well together as a Team, and nail every little detail then we can be competitive but Mercedes might have a top speed advantage on us.
“The track looks easy on paper but it’s actually quite difficult to nail a lap there because with a low downforce set up and the long braking zone the car is moving around quite a lot. It’s a bumpy track with quite old tarmac and the fans there are really passionate about racing and Formula One.
“Naturally there is always a lot of Ferrari support there but the fans just love F1 and it’s great to see that energy with the Italians.”
Verstappen says the battle for supremacy between Red Bull and Mercedes is extremely close, with neither team having any significant advantage over the other, and he foresees them battling it out for the whole season.
“I don’t think either us or Mercedes have a big advantage over the other,” said Verstappen. “At Zandvoort you could see in qualifying and the race that both of our cars are super close and Lewis was applying pressure for the entire race which meant we couldn’t afford to make any mistakes on the track, in the pit lane or on the pit wall, and we didn’t.
“I think it’s the finer details where you can make a difference. When you enter a race weekend you have to work hard as a Team on the set-up and fine tuning the little details, that’s where the gains can be made.”
“I’m hoping for a better and more straightforward weekend” – Sergio Pérez
Team-mate Sergio Pérez is hoping to put a whole weekend together this weekend at Monza after the Mexican was forced to charge through the field after finding himself eliminated in Q1 at the Circuit Zandvoort last weekend.
Red Bull opted to change Pérez’s engine ahead of the race, with the two-time race winner starting from the pit lane as a result. However, he did well in the race and was able to claim eighth, although he feels that without his Qualifying woes, he should have been a contender for the podium.
“It’s a shame we didn’t qualify better in Zandvoort because we definitely had the pace to be on the podium and score lots of points for the Team,” said Pérez. “The circuit was very enjoyable to drive though and I was having fun fighting back through the field, every overtake was on the limit! Now it’s time to look forward to Monza.
“I’m hoping for a better and more straightforward weekend with the Sprint Race format. The last race we tried it was at Silverstone and I made a mistake which ruined our weekend. It didn’t go to plan so I am looking forward to starting a fresh and seeing how this one plays out.”
Pérez says Monza is a ‘unique challenge’ for everyone this weekend due to its low-downforce set-ups, with tows likely to be needed during Friday evening’s Qualifying session ahead of Saturday’s second-ever Sprint Qualifying race.
“Monza is a unique challenge with everyone fighting in qualifying to get close to each other for a tow,” he said. “If you get it right it can make all the difference but it can also become a mess as we’ve seen in previous years so it’s important to get it right.
“With Mercedes’ top speed I don’t expect Monza to be our strongest track but hopefully we’ll be in the fight.”