Verstappen afraid of a “Senna moment”

Ayrton Senna drove one of his best weekends in Formula 1 at the 1988 Monaco Grand Prix, until he crashed a few laps before the end of the race. 35 years later, Max Verstappen put in a similarly impressive performance in Monte Carlo.

The difference was however, Verstappen brought the car home this year and won the Grand Prix by almost 28 seconds over Fernando Alonso. The world champion reveals that he did one very crucial thing differently from Senna back then.


Because although he was around 20 seconds ahead of Alonso after his pit stop, he didn’t switch into ‘cruise’ mode – but actually extended his lead on a wet track.

“Towards the end it was quite hectic,” the Dutchman reported.

“I had a big lead [after changing to intermediates] and I didn’t want to risk going the same pace or faster and then ending up in the wall. You have to be a bit more careful,” he explains.

“You can’t risk too much, but at the same time of course you can’t drive too slow,” Verstappen stresses. Because that was precisely what doomed Senna 35 years earlier. At that time, the Brazilian was even around 50 seconds ahead of his team-mate Alain Prost.


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Verstappen had to find a “middle ground”

He only made the mistake after he was instructed from the pit wall to take his foot off the gas. As a result, Senna lost his rhythm and crashed in the Portier corner. Verstappen did not want to take that risk last Sunday.

“You don’t want to risk too much, but you also don’t want to go too slow, because then you don’t have temperature in the tyres. So it was a bit difficult to find a middle ground. But after a few laps I settled in and felt quite comfortable,” he reported.

“I think at one point I had Lando [Norris] in my gearbox as well, so at one point I thought I had to go a bit faster. It’s not a pleasant situation to drive in the wet here [in Monaco],” the World Champion reports.

“But luckily, after five laps, I also changed a few things on the steering wheel to find a better balance and that definitely helped,” he explains, stressing that “even on the intermediates” it was still “very slippery” in the second sector.

So why didn’t he take his foot off the gas? “My engineer asked me the same thing. But when you have a rhythm, it’s better to stay in it,” he stressed. “Besides, the tyres cool down then,” he cites another factor.

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Verstappen stresses he was not over the limit

“You don’t want that, because they were already quite cold,” says the Dutchman, who clarifies: “I didn’t run [the car] over or anything.” He said he was not over the limit but simply driving at the rhythm that suited him.

Only immediately after his pit stop on lap 55 of 78 did Verstappen go slightly slower than Alonso because he had almost crashed earlier on slicks.

“With really worn tyres it wasn’t really pleasant to drive through [the rain],” he reported.


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“I touched a few walls, especially on my in-lap. It was very, very difficult,” Verstappen said. But once he got used to the wet track, he extended his lead at the front again by the end of the race.

By the way, Verstappen’s last retirement was more than a year ago. The last time he failed to see the chequered flag was at the Australian Grand Prix in April 2022, but that was due to a technical defect and not a driving error.

His last accidental retirement was at the 2021 Italian Grand Prix, when he collided with Lewis Hamilton, nearly two years ago.

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