Max Verstappen predicting a tougher test for Red Bull in the Monaco Grand Prix

Formula 1 fans hoping to see a tighter race this weekend may get their wish at the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix, according to one of the drivers that has been pulling away from the pack so often this season.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, Max Verstappen outlined how the layout in Monaco may level the playing field, and the Red Bull driver predicted a much “closer” race this weekend.

“It’s just because of the corners being so tight and really quick changes of direction,” said the championship leader. “It’s really stop-start compared to most tracks, you have to combine a lot more. It’s a different technique.”

“The corners are so tight, so slow that you sometimes require a lot of different behaviour of the car compared to normal tracks, and also the way you have to drive it,” Verstappen added.

As a result, according to Verstappen the grid will be “a little bit more difficult and closer together” than recent races.

There are a few reasons why this indeed could be the weekend where the pack catches up to the Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Sergio Pérez. The RB19 has been so dominant this season, but the configuration of the Monaco Grand Prix could create some opportunities for the other teams. Red Bull’s RB19 has been a force, particularly on long straights, and their massive advantage in DRS zones has seen both Verstappen and Pérez simply blow by some drivers at moments this season.

However, the tight turns in Monte Carlo, coupled with just the single DRS zone this weekend, will reduce — if not eliminate — that advantage for Red Bull. And even the single DRS zone, located on the straight coming out of Turn 19, may not prove to be decisive for Red Bull. Given the tightness of that corner, and the reduced speeds that drivers will be at coming out of that turn, that lone DRS zone might not be the silver bullet that other DRS zones have been for Red Bull this season.

Regarding cornering speed, data from earlier races this season support the idea that Red Bull could face an uphill fight this weekend. For example, this analysis from the Bahrain Grand Prix looking at slower corners highlights just how much faster Fernando Alonso was through those portions of the track in comparison to the Red Bull duo. Then there is this look at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc notched pole for both the sprint race and the main event. From the tight left-handed Turn 12 through to the final straight, Leclerc was faster than the Red Bull duo.

But once the cars got to the final straight, the Bulls were dominant.

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko shared those concerns earlier this week with Motorsport Magazine. “We can’t play to our racing strengths in Monaco. Whoever drives in front sets the pace,” explained Marko. “There are no straights where our speed advantage comes into play.”

Then there is the fact that, as Verstappen noted, other cars have shown good one-lap pace this year, while Red Bull has been strongest with race pace. “We know that over one lap it’s normally not our strongest point. But nevertheless we still took quite a few pole positions this year. So it’s still all possible but for sure here in Monaco there can always be quite a surprise,” said Verstappen.

With qualifying being a massive part of the story in Monaco, given the difficulties in overtaking during the Grand Prix itself, if another team manages to nip Red Bull to start up front, that could make it difficult for Verstappen or Pérez to pull out the win on Sunday.

Still, Verstappen knows that Monaco is just one piece to a much larger puzzle.

“Sometimes your car works perfectly for these kind of conditions and sometimes it’s maybe not ideal. I prefer of course [that] I have a quick car on most of the tracks and maybe not ideal for Monaco,” said the championship leader.

“But it’s okay, it’s only one race on the calendar,” he added. “We want to have a good result, I want to win of course, but if that is not the case, I just take the points.”

This post was originally published on SBNation

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