Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monaco, 2018

Paddock Diary: Verstappen under pressure and a meal with friends

Paddock Diary

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The fine food continues to flow in Monaco but the serious business began again on Saturday and F1’s hottest young talent Max Verstappen faced probing questions after another crash.

Friday 10am

Monaco Friday being a non-track-action day for F1, we leave our digs and head for the circuit to await news emanating from the Liberty Media meeting, at which progress made on F1’s post-2021 landscape since the Bahrain presentation is scheduled to be discussed. There is another meeting scheduled for later: between Liberty and those promoters present in Monaco, called to discuss future plans.

Basically there is no news from either: Liberty sees no reason to issue a statement about a progress-only meeting, while most team bosses head for hotels/yachts/rented mansions after their hour-long session. The only (unconfirmed) snippets are that Liberty/the FIA plan to finalise 2021’s engine regulations before F1’s summer break – since confirmed – and rumours that budget caps will be introduced from 2021, rather in 2021.

Thus I spend the balance of the day shuttling between Media Centre and the paddock in search of news. Not much about, though…


After a quick return trip to Menton to shower and change into smart(er) clothes, we arrived at La Note Bleue in Princess Grace Avenue, an open-air restaurant situated on the beach, for dinner hosted by the Mexican Grand Prix promoter – in town to attend aforementioned meeting. In typical Latin American style the hospitality is warm, the dishes befitting of a top restaurant, and the setting and ambience extremely relaxing.

The starter consists of air-dried beef and melon, for seconds I settle for entrecote smothered in mushrooms – versus vegetable risotto or sea bass – followed by chocolate sponge and coffee. Thanks Rodrigo and team!

1:30am Saturday

I arrive back in Menton, have around five hours of shut-eye, then head for the circuit after breakfast.


When I see some of the bleary eyes about the Media Centre I’m pleased we left La Note Bleue at a respectable hour – the thrash continued well past 3am – then wander off in search of Howden Ganley, former F1 driver and author of the thoroughly engaging book “The Road To Monaco”. He and his charming lady friend Joy are delightful company, and we meet up every year in Monaco for coffee and natter.

Howden Ganley: The Road to Monaco
Howden Ganley: The Road to Monaco
Howden’s tale of how a regular guy from New Zealand made it from shop floor to motorsport’s top echelon as a driver via endless courage, hard toil and sheer determination is wonderfully inspirational, and well worth a read. Howden has around 200 (signed) copies left, so if you’d like one, get in touch with us via the contact form, and I’ll ensure he gets in touch.


Back in the Media Centre, where an hour later the talk is of Max Verstappen and his sixth (at least) incident in as many races. How much longer before he has a really big one?

While most observers rate the Dutchman up there with Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher in the talent stakes and point to their refusal to admit errors and unwavering self-confidence as common traits, I’m unconvinced: neither of those greats packed as many inexcusable incidents into so few grands prix.


Off to Pirelli for an annual lunch with Ari Vatanen and Carlos Sainz, world rally champions both and mutual friends. We started the tradition three years ago, and it’s always special to see the two ex-protagonists embrace warmly as they catch up for the first time in a year. They’re multi Dakar winners, too, of course, with Carlos having won again since we last lunched, so Ari extends his heartiest congratulations as we take our seats.

Over a buffet of Italian salads and meats – finished with delectable tiramisu – they discuss various events they have in common before Ari opens up about his horrific 1985 accident in Argentina – the aftermath of which plunged him into depths of depression until he sat himself in a rally car by way of rehabilitation. The rest – including Dakar and Pikes Peak wins – is history. Catch more about Ari’s fight back in this illuminating 13-minute video:

Carlos related how he, as a 15-year-old, ordered an 8mm rally movie from the UK, then devoured it until its sprockets were worn through. “He,” he said pointing at the Finn, “was my role model, and I was so proud to eventually compete against him.”

I genuinely wish you, the reader, could have joined us for this very special occasion. Thank you Roberto Boccafogli and Pirelli for inviting us.


Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monaco, 2018
Verstappen rebuffed questions on his string of incidents
Start of post-qualifying interviews, and my lot is Kimi Raikkonen – who speaks for six full minutes – followed by Max, who interrupts me to dispute he’s been involved in six incidents this year; the full McLaren spectrum of Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne, Eric Boullier and Zak Brown; then Valtteri Bottas (we speak about his customised new MV Augusta Brutale VB77, below) and finally Toto Wolff.


Some really good stuff afternoon sent back to base, then finish off with ham/cheese baguettes provided by the Media Centre before heading back to Menton where it’s time to pack, ready to hit the airport after Sunday’s post-race stuff is done. Enjoy the race!

2018 Monaco Grand Prix

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20 comments on “Paddock Diary: Verstappen under pressure and a meal with friends”

  1. I wonder what a team like RBR would do if one of their drivers is accident prone, including colliding with his teammate, and having a driver in their junior team who is performing well beyond what we can expect of that car.

    1. @coldfly: Good question. If only we had a precedent from recent RBR history to give us a clue.

    2. GtisBetter (@)
      27th May 2018, 12:24

      I have seen this around, but this is just total nonsense. Gasly was mediocre at best in gp2. His win was in a very weak gp2 year and right now he has a very weak team mate as a comparison. If ricciardo leaves and Gasly will be promoted, we should get a better picture, but until then i’ll can’t really know how he measures up.

      1. They also still have Sainz on their books, as he is on loan at Renault.

  2. Thanks for the Monaco update. Must be tough dealing with all that gourmet food – all the time. F1 life isn’t for the faint-stomached.

    If you could do us a small favour as well as getting the site unlimited clicks – if you run into Todt, F1’s new little dictator, please congratulate him on his latest political win with the manufacturers, then slap him up the side of the head over the loss of the MGU-H? While he’s recovering maybe give him a little kick in his Todt Thong as well. ;-)

  3. I really think compairing Senna and Schumacher with Max is unfair. Not only were they much onder when they enterd the sport, they also could do unlimited testing with the actual F1 car.

    This was also still the case with the current champions on the grid.

    1. My autocorrect is going mad again. Much older when they entered

    2. Max has done 4 season in F1 at this point and if he cannot keep calm, score points consitently without crashing into on track rivals then its high time he left F1 for good. Not sure what dirt Verstappen Sr. has on Horner and Marko that they are scared to punish Max for his antiques on track.

      1. He is in his 4th season. Got a lot of bad luck last year so not that much mileage

        1. 4th full season, with debut at practice session of Japanese Grand prix 2014.

        2. @anunaki, that also means that he has now got 66 F1 races under his belt – when you compare him to the rest of the grid, he’s got the same amount, or more experience, to half the drivers on the grid.

          After all, you could extend the same logic to figures such as Sainz Jr or Magnussen, both of whom have the same number of starts as Verstappen – should they also be given the benefit of the doubt when they make a mistake on track because they’re only in their fourth seasons as well? Should Kvyat have been given more benefit of the doubt by Red Bull because he was only into his third season in F1 when they booted him out of the team and back down to Toro Rosso?

          As for testing, in the pre-season tests for 2018 alone he clocked up nearly 2,000km – he was sixth in terms of total mileage covered, having covered much more mileage than Ocon, Leclerc or Vandoorne, to pick just a few drivers with less experience in F1 than Verstappen.

          There is only so far that those arguments can be made to stretch when dealing with Verstappen before they start getting stretched so far that they can be made to apply for over half the grid.

        3. “Got a lot of bad luck last year so not that much mileage” – hahahahahahah

      2. What? What? What?…. Max leaving his “antiques on track”! I’ve heard he’s good at blocking but that is ridiculous!

    3. @anunaki Can you remind me when unlimited testing was banned please.

      1. Not sure but I think 2009

    4. Nonsense argument. Top drivers always wanted to leave the testing as much as possible to the, wait for it, test drivers.
      Quit making up excuses.

      1. And there have been bans of in-season testing on and off-again from 2003 onwards, CFD and sims getting better. Also, just bc there isn’t a ban on testing, doesn’t mean they actually did it a lot at all. The contemporary budgets are a lot larger than in the eighties and nineties.
        Your idol, whom you desperately try to defend and excuse every time you comment, has had about 70 GP-weekends, the best ‘testing’ there is. Senna by that time was in his 1st championship winning year, fighting Prost in the same machinery and was already considered to be the best on the grid, together with Prost. And Schumacher even was a 2 time WC.

  4. @dieterrencken Another fascinating insight into the F1 paddock. Just reading your words, I get the sense the Monaco GP weekend still retains that extra bit of magic.

    Being regaled by stories from Ari Vatanen and Carlos Sainz can’t hurt either! Look forward to the race-day installment.

    1. Yes… I don’t mind having dedicated article about Ari Vatanen and Carlos Sainz!

  5. @dieterrencken, nice bikes but I doubt they sound as good as the original MV750-6.

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