It isn’t a race which the team were expecting to do well at, given the ultra-low downforce package and high dependency on horsepower, but Red Bull were moderately pleased in their ‘third bet team’ position at the end of practice day on Friday.
Although the gap has closed between the Renault (Tag Heuer) engine, and that of the leading Mercedes, it is still not a match and has traditionally struggled at tracks which depend on the power from the engine. Despite that though they were still the third best team, a long way behind Mercedes and Ferrari though which the battle looks set to be between this weekend.
Max Verstappen ran the Halo in the first session, and ended the day the faster of the Red Bull pairing in fifth: “It was a good day on track. We knew that it would be a more difficult weekend for the team as this is definitely the most challenging track for us on the calendar, but I think it wasn’t too bad today and we can definitely improve for tomorrow.
“We found a good balance in between the sectors so it’s now up to us and the car. For the moment we are a little bit too far behind Mercedes, but if we get everything sorted for tomorrow, we can get closer. They definitely look very strong. Difficult to say what tomorrow brings, it will for sure be tougher than Spa and I think you can clearly see that, but we’ll do our best.”
Just a place behind, Daniel Ricciardo speculated what the stategy might be for Sunday with the expectation that it will be a two stop race given the introduction of the supersoft tyre at Monza:
“After today’s action I think we are more or less where we expected to be. I would like to be closer to Ferrari but we didn’t really find the times on the supersofts, though the softs felt competitive. I think tomorrow it will tighten up at the top even more.
“I expect Mercedes to lock out the front row and Ferrari look like the next best. Fifth and sixth for now is not too bad and gives us plenty to work on for tomorrow.
“Monza is a very high speed circuit so if you have the right race car you have the opportunity to overtake. Even if you’re a little bit down on top speed you can get a good slipstream and use DRS to make a pass.
“Looking at strategy here in the past it has typically been a one stop race so that limits the options and even in today’s heat the tyres lasted well so I can’t see that changing for now. Max did a fairly long stint on the supersofts and the result looked good.”