Max Verstappen ended Friday practice between the Ferraris as Red Bull seemed to be catching up with the Scuderia. The reigning champion said he was not worried about the Italian team’s performance, however, after team principal Christian Horner explained why the team chose to give the Dutchman a new engine at Monza.
Several drivers, including Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, will drop the order for the start of Sunday’s race, while, with his fifth engine of the season, Verstappen will only drop five places on the grid. Horner gave the team’s reasons for taking the penalty.
“Yeah, I mean, we’ve chosen to take this penalty here on the advice of our engine partner, and five places here isn’t too draconian, so to add that extra engine to our field for the remaining seven races, we just have to strategically thought that It was the right thing”.
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However, Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez will drop 10 places after taking his fourth internal combustion engine of the season. While Verstappen finished fifth and then second in both practice sessions, Pérez was 14th in FP1 and then sixth in FP2.
“We had a reasonable day,” Horner said. “I want to say that everyone has gone very quietly to work with him. Obviously, we have tested the different tyres, different levels of downforce. Max found a balance that he is quite happy with; I think Checo is getting closer and closer to that now.
“So, there’s a lot to see tonight. Obviously we have to take penalties with both cars, which will throw us out of sync a bit, but it will create a really exciting race on Sunday.”
FP2: Sainz leads Verstappen and Leclerc in the second Monza practice session
And despite finishing off the Ferraris in FP1 before splitting them up in FP2 as Sainz set the pace, Verstappen was undeterred. He said: “They [Ferrari] looking good. I’m not worried about that, but we still have some things to finalize. But if you look at the long runs, I think we look pretty good, and I think that’s the most important thing for the race.
“I think the car was pretty good. I only tried a few things on the car from FP1 to FP2 to understand if I could do things better. Some worked; some did not. And just trying long run practice, of course, with the little penalty that we have, and it all seems to work out pretty well.”
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Perez said Friday was a “complicated” day, but the Mexican was optimistic about Red Bull’s race pace.
“A lot of information for us to go through tonight, which is quite promising, in that sense, because we managed to complete a very strong program,” he said. “It feels light, a lot of slippage, but that’s just the nature of this circuit, so yeah, I’m looking forward to tomorrow, but mainly Sunday.”
Red Bull’s pair of Italian Grand Prix victories have come from pole position thanks to Sebastian Vettel in 2011 and 2013, with Verstappen still missing an F1 podium finish at Monza.