Verstappen happy with third, Horner hails Perez ‘sacrifice’

Max Verstappen said he was more than happy to emerge from Friday’s qualifying session at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza in third place behind the two Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton.

The Red Bull driver said that it was better than he had been expecting after the team struggled in the single hour-long free practice earlier in the day.

“This track is always going to be difficult,” Verstappen acknowledged. “We struggled a bit more than we wanted in free practice but we recovered quite well throughout qualifying.

  • Read also: Bottas beats Hamilton to top spot for Monza sprint race

“I’m happy to be third,” he told the media in parc ferme immediately after the end of qualifying. “For the race hopefully we can be a bit closer.”

The new sprint qualifying format being used for only the second time this weekend means that there will be a second practice on Saturday followed by the sprint race that sets the starting order for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.

“You never know around here. We still have FP2 so we can see what we can do to help the long run pace a bit more,” he said. “It will be a bit more difficult around here, but nevertheless we can score a good amount of points.”

While Verstappen will be lining up for the 30-minute Saturday race on the front row, his team mate Sergio Perez will be back in ninth after using his final run to ‘tow’ Verstappen to a quicker time at the cost of his own.

“Checo played a key, key role as a team player today to give his teammate a tow and help Max get into that position,” Red Bull team principal confirmed afterwards.

The team’s fear was that the strong showing of the McLarens left them vulnerable to being pushed off the second row without Perez’ help.

“Checo probably sacrificed half a second,” Horner suggested. “He should have been higher than he is, but we’re pretty happy with that result.”

“We got the best out of it,” agreed Red Bull motorsports consultant Dr Helmet Marko in an interview with Sky Germany. Great teamwork, thanks to Perez, who gave the slipstream!”

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“We are satisfied, we feared that even McLaren would be ahead of us here,” he added.

The high-powered Monza circuit usually played to Mercedes’ advantages, but Horner said that Red Bull had made progress on where they had been a year ago.

“Based on what the deficit was last year, we pretty much have halved that gap,” Horner stated, adding that by starting tomorrow’s sprint on the racing line he could have the upper hand on Hamilton.

“What’s interesting is the run down to turn 1,” he explained. “Max is on the right side of the grid,

“He’ll hopefully pick up a tow on the run to turn 1 so it puts on even more emphasis I’m sure” he continued. “Lewis would probably preferred to be on the left than the right, so it’s going to make it a very exciting sprint.”

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