According to Christian Horner, the team principal of Red Bull, Max Verstappen’s extraordinary wall-riding lap during the qualifying session in Monaco marked the culmination of his frustrated attempt to secure pole position in Jeddah two years prior.
In the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Verstappen was set to claim pole position with an awe-inspiring lap, showcasing his remarkable skills. However, his hopes were dashed when he collided with the wall at the exit of the final corner.
Fast forward to the recent weekend in Monaco, and once again, Verstappen pushed himself to the edge. This time, though, he conquered the challenge, skillfully navigating the track, brushing the walls along the way, and ultimately securing pole position.
Following Verstappen’s win in Sunday’s race, Horner said his driver “did 70% of the job in sector three” on his final lap of qualifying.
That lap I think will go down as one of the all-time great laps here in Monaco,” Horner told media including RaceFans. “It was stunning.”
I obviously follow the live telemetry and in sector one he matched his best, then in sector two already around [Fairmont] hairpin he was starting to find a bit of time. He then had a very good 10-11 through the chicane so his middle sector was already building.
“And then literally as he came into the Swimming Pool, that’s where he lit it up in that part where he crashed a few years ago, the corner that claims, pretty much most of them. And then Rascasse I think he touched every barrier. Even coming out of the final turn on the street, I mean you could see how wild he was after that lap. It was win-it-or-bin-it for sure and it was stunning, absolutely stunning.”
“Certainly qualifying was one of the best laps of his career,” Horner concluded. “It was quite outstanding. The lap that he almost finished in Saudi Arabia a couple of years ago, that was the completion of that lap.”
While Verstappen may not consider this particular lap among his personal bests, he candidly acknowledged his relentless drive to push the boundaries in his quest for the crucial pole position in Monaco.
“In qualifying you need to go all out and risk it all. My first sector wasn’t ideal in my final lap – I think to turn one was a bit cautious – but then I knew that I was behind, so in the last sector I just gave it everything I had. I clipped a few barriers,” he said.
During the final lap, the Red Bull driver trailed behind Fernando Alonso by a mere two-tenths of a second across the first two sectors.
“I knew that the last lap I had to do it because they improved. And I also knew going into the last sector I was down on them. So I had to push flat-out in the last sector, risk everything to get back the lap time. And luckily, we did.”
Securing pole position by a margin of 0.084 seconds over Alonso, Verstappen’s remarkable achievement left his competitor acknowledging it as “undoubtedly one of my best laps in Monaco.” Despite this recognition, Alonso couldn’t pinpoint any specific actions he could have taken differently to outperform Verstappen.
“Both laps in Q3, we were increasing the level of risk to an uncomfortable level, let’s say. And I think both laps in Q3 were a little bit over the limit sometimes but everything went fine,” he said.
Nevertheless, according to Aston Martin’s performance director Tom McCullough, he believed that their driver still had some room for improvement in comparison to Verstappen.
“Ultimately that last lap, the margins, if you look at Max is rubbing the barriers, pushing it really hard, knowing that his first two sectors weren’t quick enough,” he said.
“I think Fernando was up quite a bit on his previous lap in the first two sectors. He leaves a bit of margin, he’s just bringing the car home. So ultimately I’m sure if he was to go do the lap again he could push a bit more through there.”