Max Verstappen talks about his tyre strategy in F1 Monaco GP and the rain run, with Christian Horner adding his bits.
It was an interesting start to F1 Monaco GP where Red Bull’s Verstappen ran the medium tyres and Aston Martin went for hard for Fernando Alonso. The latter went for a different strategy keeping rain on mind, with the idea to stop late when rain was predicted.
Verstappen then had to not only generate a gap to Alonso, but also save his tyres to go long. Even with the pace advantage of Red Bull, they were wary of how Monaco is. “It was quite hectic towards the end,” he said. “But also, I think the whole race was all about like 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 tyre on, and you catch up and you wait until Fernando does his pitstop, but we couldn’t do that because the risk of rain was around so I had to stay out.
“The tyres were graining, I had to go through that graining phase, which wasn’t that easy. But then luckily it picked up a little bit but then of course, it started to rain. And with really worn tyres, to go through there was not really enjoyable. Clipped a few barriers, especially on my in-lap, I think. It was very, very difficult,” summed up Verstappen.
Post his intermediate switch, Verstappen had to maintain speed to not let the temperature lower and risk crashing. But to start off the stint, he was taking it slow before speeding up a bit as he was trying to assess the situation and how the track was playing out.
“On the Intermediates after that, it was still very slippery through the second sector,” said Verstapen. “It was quite wet there. And yeah, the hard bit is that, you have a good lead, but of course, you don’t want to risk too much, but also you don’t want to drive too slow, because then you have no temperature in your tyres.
“So, just trying to find a bit the middle ground initially was a bit tough, but then after a few laps, I think I settled in and felt quite comfortable. The first few laps, it was just that I had a big lead and I didn’t want to risk trying to be the same pace or faster and then end up in the wall. You have to be a little bit more careful.
“It’s just not take too much risk but at the same time, of course not drive too slowly. I think I had Lando in my gearbox as well so at one point, I was like, well, I do need to speed up a bit. But yeah, it’s not a comfortable situation to be in, when it’s like that to run here in the wet but luckily after five laps to change a few things on the steering wheel as well to just give me a bit of a better balance and that definitely helped as well,” summed up Verstappen.
Having got comfortable in the situation, Verstappen sped up and generated a huge margin over Alonso and despite pleas from his race engineer, he kept going. The Dutchman reckoned he was not overdriving even with the barrier touch he had.
“My engineer was asking me the same thing but it’s more when you’re on a rhythm, it’s better to just stay in that,” said Verstappen. “I think just one time out of 16 I clipped the barrier. But I thought I had a bit more margin and then I just I touched those… okay, I didn’t have the margin. But yeah, it was fine.
“It’s better to be in a rhythm and feel good than slowing down and then be a bit out of your zone, and then also your tyres get colder. It’s not what you like, they were already quite cold, so which is better, I think to stay in that because I was not overdriving it or whatever, it was just in my own zone,” summed up Verstappen.
Team boss Horner was a bit anxious with the different tyre strategy at the start but the way Verstappen managed his stint, he did the job what they aimed for at the start. “The weather what they were predicting that there might be a bit of rain towards the end of the race and then when everybody pulls the covers off their tyres, you see people are on hards, people on mediums – it was pretty evenly split,” he said to media.
“Then maybe if the medium degrades, the hard could go in the window of the rain and so on. The Job 1 was to get the start which he did pretty comfortably. And then he settled into a pace and he got a pit stop to Ocon pretty quickly, he got the 20s that he needed and he also pulled out the 10s to Fernando to get a safety car window.
“At that point, he was doing such a good job with the tyres, it gave us the longevity to go far enough to see what was going to happen with the weather,” summed up Horner, who added that he was surprised when Alonso pitted for slicks. Once they saw that, they were done with any tensions and let Verstappen do his job with much worry.
He did, however, concede that they perhaps could have pitted Verstappen one lap earlier. “I think with 20:20 hindsight we should have probably pitted one lap earlier to go onto the inter,” said Horner. “Thereafter he was very mature when the rain came, he took it steady, he brought the tyres in and closed out the race. It was a top draw drive from Max.
“I think we had enough margin with the nine or 10 seconds lead that Max had when he pitted that even five or six seconds off the pace we’d have still been three or four up the road. I was surprised they took the medium tyre. That totally let us off the hook. And we were ‘okay Max, just get it to the pits and let us get the car turn around’.
“We had so much margin, we didn’t need to put the pressure and get the decision wrong. We had the time and circuit, it wasn’t like it was flooding with rain, so it gave us the ability to lose 4-5s in the in-lap and still come out ahead of Fernando. And basically, when we saw out on the slicks, we said ‘don’t even try’,” summed up Horner.
The different strategies, though, wasn’t a problem for them. “I think the problem is when somebody is on the alternate strategy and there’s some weather around, there’s the up and down side, it was whether to start the race on the medium or the hard tyre,” said Horner. “The way Max made the medium last, his tyres at the point the rain arrived, it looked in better shape than Fernando’s tyre.”
Here’s how F1 Monaco GP panned out