Max Verstappen says he used the time behind Valtteri Bottas in the Sprint to watch how the Mercedes performs ahead of tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix.
Bottas won from first on the grid to secure three points, but the Finn will take a grid penalty on Sunday and start from the back, promoting Verstappen to pole. While the Red Bull driver was quick enough to stay within two seconds of Bottas throughout the 18-lap Sprint, he never launched a serious attack and he says he knew he could afford to try and learn about Mercedes’ performance ahead of the main race.
“I think it was a good day for us,” Verstappen said. “A good start and from there onwards I tried to follow Valtteri around even though in general we lacked a little bit of pace to really mount a challenge. But I tried to stay in the tow a bit.
“From our side it was good — two points scored and starting first tomorrow. I don’t expect it to be a straightforward and easy race — Valtteri coming from the back, Lewis (Hamilton) P4. they have a lot of pace, so we’ll see what we can do against them.
“Just sensible pushing, just to see what the pace is at. Valtteri was already a bit up the road after one or two laps so just see what the car was at, but of course I never really felt like an overtake was on. Just try to keep close and see where we can improve with the package, and see how their car runs over curbs, corners, cornering speeds and stuff — all these kinds of things. Yeah, I also knew, of course, even if I just would have stayed in second, I start first tomorrow.”
With the two McLarens directly behind him and showing good top sped, and Hamilton a threat from fourth, Verstappen says he thinks he has the car to defend his position if he gets a clean start on Sunday.
“I have to say we did trim our car to have decent top speed, so I am not too worried about our top speed in the race. Of course, we also know that Mercedes have very good pace over the whole lap but nevertheless, we’re going to try and have a good race tomorrow.”