Max Verstappen is not concerned about the straight-line speed advantage of the Mercedes-powered cars around him at the start of the Italian Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver will start on pole for tomorrow’s race. Verstappen finished sprint qualifying in second place, behind Valtteri Bottas. However, Bottas will take a power unit change penalty and start from the back of the grid.
Lewis Hamilton’s poor start to the sprint qualifying race means he will line up fourth, with the two Mercedes-powered McLaren cars between the two title rivals.
Mercedes had seemed to hold a significant pace advantage over Red Bull in qualifying. However, Verstappen said that during the 18-lap sprint he found the Red Bull pace was better than had been predicted.
“The race went a little bit better than expected,” admitted Verstappen. “We had a good start, got up to second and we scored some nice little points and of course, starting on pole for tomorrow.”
However he admitted the Mercedes drivers “still seem very quick” and was unable to catch Bottas. “I was giving it my all to try and stay close so it’s going to be an interesting battle tomorrow.”
Verstappen said that the predicted speed deficit was not quite as large as it might have been, Red Bull having removed downforce to match Mercedes’ pace around Monza.
“We did trim our car to have decent top speed so I’m not too worried about our top speed in the race,” Verstappen explained. “But of course, we know that Mercedes have very good pace also, over the whole lap.
“But nevertheless, we’re going to try and have also a good race tomorrow.”