21 May 2015
F1 Monaco Grand Prix: Verstappen surprised by practice pace
Max Verstappen backed up Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost's claim that a podium is possible this season by going second fastest in FP1 at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Monaco rookie Max Verstappen admits that he was taken aback to find himself up in second place after the opening 90 minutes of practice in the Principality.
The Toro Rosso driver, who has never raced the famed street circuit in a single-seater, posted a late flying lap to slot in just a tenth behind pacesetter Lewis Hamilton in the morning practice session – and believes he could have been almost as high in the afternoon, having come across traffic shortly before the session fell victim to rain.
“I was surprised,” he said of his morning's effort, “I was looking [for my name] after the flag, looking up to the screen and I couldn't find myself. Then I looked a bit further up and I went 'oh… alright, that was a good lap then!'.
“Even in the last practice, I should have been closer to third. I got held up in the last sector quite aggressively, but I think it is possible. If we can get the right lap in qualifying, then anything is possible.”
Prior to taking to the track this morning, Verstappen's experience of Monaco had been accrued solely on a simulator, although he revealed that he had been putting in the virtual miles.
“The whole session, I was building up slowly, but already from the simulator to here was very helpful, so I felt straight away very good on the track and I could get a lot of confidence from myself,” he revealed, confirming that he had spent one-and-a-half days in the simulator, “That's between 200 and 300 laps, but it takes just ten to adjust mentally. You don't want to take a lot of risk at the beginning so I just built it up, adjusting my braking points. Cornering-wise, I felt quite comfortable from the start but, if you adjust your braking point, you get more temperature in the tyres and brakes and everything works better.”
Suggesting that it might be a bit more dangerous to take an F1 car to one of his favourite street circuits, Macau, Verstappen admitted that there was still a little work to be done on Toro Rosso's qualifying pace, acknowledging that that could make or break his weekend.
“I think the race pace we figured out a bit what went wrong there and, of course, it is hard to overtake, so qualifying is very important,” he said, “I think we were a bit too conservative on the tyres because the whole stint we were doing the same lap times and everyone else was going very fast in the beginning, then dropping off."
Asked whether he shares team boss Franz Tost's belief that a podium could be on the cards for either of Toro Rosso's youngsters this season, Verstappen acknowledged that Monaco's tricky nature could make it reality.
“It is very important to know what the car is doing and you get a lot of confidence because a street circuit is about confidence and feeling with the car. Maybe [a podium is possible] on this track if we have a lot of luck and people have problems or crash out and we stay out on track!
“We need a lot of luck for that. Normally Mercedes, Ferrari should be ahead but, if we have a lot of luck, maybe...”
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