It was just a matter of time. Max Verstappen’s long-awaited extension materialized on the Monaco weekend, a weekend in which the world champion fielded the best of his repertoire, reiterating the reasons why at the age of 25 he already has two world titles on his bulletin board.
Saturday’s qualifying lap and the management of the critical moment of the race (triggered by the arrival of the rain) are performances that Max makes seem normal, the ordinary of an extraordinary driver.
The twenty-five points won in Monaco seem too few compared to the added value guaranteed by Verstappen in the Principality, and this is confirmed by the comparison with a teammate who is certainly no stranger.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, celebrates his success at the Monaco GP
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
When the single-seaters removed their electric blankets on the starting grid, the plan devised by Aston Martin and Alonso immediately became clear. Max got off on the medium tyres, Fernando on the hard tyres, to lengthen the first stint of the race as much as possible. All this, with the hope that the rain (announced an hour after the start) would not delay.
It went exactly as planned and a super Alonso never gave the race leader enough of an advantage to make a pit stop without ending up behind him. This scenario forced Verstappen to stay on track with the medium set mounted at the start until the rain arrived, a good 55 laps. A stint run at a very fast pace, but both the driver and the RB19 handled the train flawlessly. Max also allowed himself an extra lap in very high-risk conditions before moving on to the intermediates, three kilometers which saw him lean against the barriers on two occasions.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull RB19, built another feat in the Monaco GP
Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images
“I admit that when I saw Alonso starting off on the hard tires I thought ‘I wonder if the averages will last long’ – commented Christian Horner after the race – and I exactly imagined the scenario that then occurred, but Max managed to cover a impressive number of laps. In retrospect, I think we took a risk by letting him out for one lap too many in really difficult conditions, but he kept his composure and took the car into the pits to finally move on to the intermediates. It was a top-class performance from Max. All this twenty-four hours after qualifying, I think that lap will become one of the best of all time done on this track”.
Verstappen took his 39th win, becoming the most successful driver for a Red Bull, a record previously held by Sebastian Vettel. He is also 39 points ahead of Sergio Perez in the general standings, an extension that smacks of an unstoppable move from ‘Checo’. At the end of one of his worst weekends since he’s been at Red Bull, Perez now not only sees his teammate walking away, but also the silhouette of Alonso approaching.
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin F1 Team, on the podium after second place
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
After six races the gap between the two narrowed to 12 points, an unthinkable scenario after the first rounds of the season. If Verstappen’s driving could be admired today in Monaco, the credit goes exclusively to Alonso and Aston Martin, the only tandem to stand up (albeit at a distance) to the world champion.
By now, the hopes of all those who hope to interrupt Red Bull’s dominance have materialized in Fernando, and the Spaniard does not mind the role at all. The expectation for Alonso’s return to victory is growing more and more, an escalation motivated by what Fernando shows on the track.
Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
In Monaco he was superlative, in qualifying as in the race, the only driver monitored by the Red Bull box as a potential threat to Max. Aston Martin knows that if they manage to make one last technical effort they can really hope for a coup, the driver is there he is, a 41-year-old young man, as hungry as a twenty-year-old but with a veteran’s vision of the race. It is probably the added value of this first part of the world cup, if Alonso weren’t there it would be much, much worse.
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