Max Verstappen admits he was caught out by how much the field slowed at the start of the Italian Grand Prix, where he picked up damage at the first corner and was limited to eighth place.
Honda introduced its Spec 4 power unit in Belgium last weekend, with Verstappen taking the upgrade in Italy and receiving a grid penalty as a result. Starting from the back, Verstappen was cautious into Turn 1 but still ran into the back of Sergio Perez and was forced to pit at the end of the opening lap, going on to recover to eighth behind the Racing Point.
“It was not even late braking, I was just following, following, and suddenly everything almost stood still,” Verstappen said. “I tried to avoid it, but I still clipped, I think Sergio, on the rear wheel. The front wing was a bit down, so we boxed. The race was still on. I think we had good pace. I got through quite a lot of cars, but then again I got stuck behind Sergio, [and] they have such a high top speed, I had no chance to get by.”
Despite never being in contention for a podium, Verstappen said his outlook for Monza had always been about damage limitation.
“I think the car performed well,” he said. “We were unlucky with the Virtual Safety Car again, two or three cars overtook me in the pit stop because of that. The whole race, everything was just against us. It doesn’t work out. Sometimes starting at the back works out brilliantly, like in Austin last year, but you can’t expect it to be like that all the time of course.
“(Monza) was about surviving, trying to score a few points. We did that, but I’m really looking forward to now starting at the front again for Singapore. We’ve had our penalties, and hopefully also our trouble. From now on we can just focus on performance.”