Max Verstappen insists that he was not on – or over – the limit when he crashed out of qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Instead, the Dutchman, who came to the Principality as F1's hottest property following a debut win for Red Bull in Barcelona, admitted that he had simply made a mistake while chasing a time in the opening phase of the knock-out session.
Having seen team-mate Daniel Ricciardo set the pace in Thursday's afternoon practice session and get within a couple of tenths of Sebastian Vettel despite a far from clean lap on Saturday morning, Verstappen was keen to keep pace with the Australian, who was benefiting from Renault's latest V6 powerplant.
Clipping the barrier at Massanet during FP3 left him undaunted, particularly as the RB12 escaped anything but cosmetic damage, but Verstappen was to pay heavily for a more substantial meeting with the barriers when it counted more.
Replays showed the teenager clip the right hand barrier as he turned in to the opening part of the Swimming Pool complex, breaking the steering and suspension on his car, before ploughing into the Armco further down the road. The impact did substantial damage to the front of the car and, this time, there was no making it back to the pits for attention.
“It's pretty simple,” Verstappen admitted, “I turned in a bit too early, slightly touched the inside barrier and broke the track rod, couldn't steer anymore and just ran straight into the barrier. You can call it a mistake, a miscalculation – I just turned in a fraction too early, and just slightly touched the barrier.”
Despite the pace he was carrying through the rest of the lap, and knowing how important qualifying is in Monaco, Verstappen insisted that he was not pushing the limits of either himself or the car at the time of the accident.
“I was not full risk because, if you are on the limit, you would lock up or go wide,” he explained, “I turned in too early, so that means maybe I was not on the limit. I should have been on the limit.
“You know that, after two times, you go over a few bumps and you brake. But, in general, we had a bit more grip, a lighter car and, all in all, you can brake a bit later. Maybe I braked on the same point and turned in a bit too early because you just had a bit more grip so the car pulled more to the inside. But that is easy to say afterwards.”
The mishap left Verstappen 21st on the provisional grid, ahead only of the luckless Felipe Nasr, whose engine blew up before he could even contemplate a flying lap.
“You don't want it to happen, especially in Q1 when you have a car that is comfortably top four,” Verstappen lamented, “It is a big price to pay, but it is everywhere - every track where you crash, it is a big price to pay, but maybe here a little bit more. I would have been top four. Daniel did a great lap and the new engine seems to work pretty well - good power, good drivability. Around this track, that is very important, but I would have been very happy if I qualified top four.”
Having been the centre of attention since his remarkable win in Spain, the accident was somewhat humbling for Verstappen, but he retains hope of moving up the order on raceday despite Monaco's obvious limitations on racing.
“I was already down to earth, but these things happen, especially in Monaco,” he conceded, “If you count the crashes over the last few years, there are quite a few [here] but, unfortunately, it happened to me in qualifying after a win in Barcelona. That was very unexpected also on my side and, of course, it is not ideal, but I also try to stay out of the barrier. I don't do it on purpose.”
“We still have to see with the chassis, if it is not damaged. But the car is really good, so it is mainly the top four guys and, of course, you have the Ferraris but, after that, there is quite a big pace delta, so hopefully we can take advantage of that.
“And apparently, tomorrow, there is some rain expected, so that would be nice. We have a great car, and the pace is really good, so hopefully we can have a good stint in the beginning or at the end, and get past some cars.”