Max Verstappen says the penalty he got for hitting Valtteri Bottas in the pit lane during the Monaco Grand Prix fired him up in his fight with Lewis Hamilton.
An early safety car period saw the top six drivers all pit, with Bottas in second backing up Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel behind him in order to avoid losing time while his teammate Hamilton stopped. Verstappen was released as Bottas was coming down the pit lane, and although the Red Bull was marginally ahead he moved across toward the middle of the pit lane and made contact with the Mercedes.
“I think as a team we did everything, it was just unfortunate,” Verstappen said. “I didn’t know there was anyone next to me because they released me and it all gets a bit tight — we were ahead but of course it was a shame that we touched. But I couldn’t see him.
“It fired me up. As soon as I heard the penalty I was pushing Lewis, because initially he was driving so slow. Then I heard the penalty so I just kept pushing him, then of course he had to push and he destroyed his tires. So that was my only way of trying to get by.”
Verstappen crossed the line second but was demoted to fourth by a five-second time penalty for the unsafe release. He spent most of the race attacking Hamilton for the lead and the Dutchman insists Hamilton was struggling to such an extent he was certain he would build a big margin if he could get ahead.
“It was fun! I was trying to get ahead of Lewis because I knew that if I would get ahead I could drive off, because we were much faster and his tires were destroyed, so he had no grip. I was trying everything I could.
“Around here, being in the dirty air for so long, within half a second, it’s really hard because in the high-speed corners you’re always sliding a lot and trying to keep it between the walls. But I enjoyed it. Of course it’s a shame to finish fourth, but myself I had a fun race.
“He was so slow in Turn 5 and 6 that we had a lot more (pace). It’s easy to say that now but I felt we had a lot more pace. Lewis was clearly on the wrong tire.”
There was contact as Verstappen had a late lunge for the lead into the Nouvelle Chicane, but he dismissed the severity of the incident and says he had no complaints about Hamilton’s defense.
“I couldn’t really plan because I was always so close at the hairpin but all the time out of Turn 8 I just lost the momentum. At one point I just thought let’s have a go and see what happens. We had this little touch but under braking you normally don’t look in your mirrors already and they are also difficult to see though, there was no-one to blame. I don’t think there was any damage.
“I was a bit closer compared to other laps, but we already brake so late with these cars. When you’re up against a Mercedes compared to what I had last year, coming from the back. Of course those cars were two seconds a lap slower – that’s obviously not the case now, it’s all a bit more difficult.”