Max Verstappen could not topple Ferrari in qualifying at Monza, but expects the extra downforce being carried to pay off in the Italian Grand Prix.
Ferrari made it a clean sweep of practice P1s on Friday, but when Verstappen topped the final practice session ahead of qualifying, in comfortable fashion, it seemed the predictions of a Spa-esque Red Bull for Monza would come true.
But Ferrari fought back in qualifying, Charles Leclerc putting the Scuderia on pole at their home race, sending the tifosi wild in the grandstands.
However, Verstappen knew he was going into qualifying with a set-up that was not quite ideal as he was carrying a bit of extra downforce around a venue which is all about straight-line speed over one lap.
Come the race though, Verstappen believes the pendulum will swing and this extra downforce will work in his favour.
Verstappen, having qualified P2, carries a five-place grid penalty into the Italian Grand Prix.
Pointed out to him that he seemed to be struggling in the high-speed first and third sectors, Verstappen told Sky Sports F1: “It was close, but we chose to go for a little bit more downforce around here.
“And I think over one lap it’s maybe not the best, but I think for tomorrow it can be quite strong and also knowing we have to start a bit back.
“But I think all in all it was still a good lap. I enjoyed it, the whole weekend so far. And I think it will be an interesting battle tomorrow.”
The last time Verstappen had an engine penalty was at Spa. There, he started P14 yet still won the race in dominant fashion.
He will not be starting anywhere near as far back as that this time around, although his approach for the start at Monza is to keep it clean.
“Just try to stay out of trouble at the beginning,” he said. “And I just work my way forward.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner confirmed Verstappen’s claim that the RB18s have been set up with the race in mind.
Asked if he thought his drivers could have edged out the Ferraris, Horner replied: “We thought it would be tight, we knew Ferrari in qualifying in particular would be very strong and that’s proved to be the case.
“We’ve perhaps compromised qualifying slightly to hopefully give the drivers a better race car for tomorrow. So we’ll see if that trade pays off, but I’m reasonably satisfied with that.”