2016 world champion Nico Rosberg could not help but notice that Red Bull’s Max Verstappen did not look quite as comfortable with the car as he usually does during practice ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix.
Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez put 120 laps on the board between them on Friday in what appeared to be a productive day for the Austrian outfit, but they were soundly beaten by Ferrari in FP2, leaving them with work to do overnight to reduce the deficit to the Scuderia.
However, Perez topped FP3 on Saturday morning, and went on to out-qualify the Dutchman for the second time this season, finishing ahead of him in every session bar Q1.
It is a collector’s item to see Verstappen’s comprehensively outpaced during a weekend, which is testament to his brilliance, and Rosberg observed that the world champion was struggling to get his eye in on Friday.
“Max has been a bit off today, beaten by his team-mate Perez, you could see he just hasn’t felt comfortable yet which is very unusual,” he told Sky Sports.
“So let’s see if he can find that rhythm in FP3.”
While the German was mightily impressed by the continued improvements being shown by Perez, he stated that the 24-year-old needed to find some consistency heading into the remainder of the weekend.
“Sergio generally this year has been much closer, he’s been like two tenths away instead of last year when it was more like five tenths,” explained Rosberg.
“So, great job from him with this car. He, I think, feels more comfortable with this car this year. So that’s been going well for him but it’s really Max, I think, who’s been out of place today.
“You know, almost half a second away from the Ferraris, but it’s going to be difficult. Again, it’s all about rhythm this weekend. And for him to get back into that rhythm tomorrow is a big challenge.”
Verstappen might well have turned the tables and qualified on the front row on Saturday having gone up on his previous best in the first sector on his final run.
No one was stopping Charles Leclerc from taking pole position, but Perez ultimately endured that the order would say as it was when he span at Portier and collected Carlos Sainz, bringing out the red flag.
Verstappen was audibly and visibly fuming after qualifying, but accepts that this is simply the way it tends to go in Monaco.
“I mean I wouldn’t have fought for pole because I think Charles and Ferrari, they were really strong the whole weekend,” he told Sky Sports.
“Second was on because I chose a different strategy where I was going to do two fast laps instead of just for the single time because I couldn’t get the temperature in my tyres.
“My second lap time… I was on a decent lap, I was two tenths up on my own lap time but then of course I went into Eight, or seven already [and there was a] yellow flag.
“So I had to back out and then there was a traffic jam; the track was blocked.
“So yeah it’s [the] second time now in two years that the Q3 second run there was a red flag, but that’s Monaco.
“That’s what happens when everyone is trying to really go to the limit and then of course a mistake can happen.”
Put to the 24-time race winner that he was losing time at Turn One, he divulged that he had been able to get the tyres into a better operating window, so was quicker everywhere.
“I fixed it in my final run,” explained Verstappen.
“I was faster in my final run through Turn One, so it was just on that single timed lap I couldn’t get it together.
“I think at the end I was maybe not entirely happy with the car but also I had to find my own strategy with the tyre warmup and stuff.
“It was actually coming together for that final run so yeah… I just couldn’t show it and then of course it looks a bit more dramatic but it is what it is.”
Perez’s collision ensured that Ferrari locked out the front row for the second time this season, while the Milton Keynes-based side were forced to settle for an all-second row start.