Verstappen’s Monaco pole run was the completion of his 2021 Jeddah lap – Horner

2023 Monaco Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says Max Verstappen’s wall-riding Monaco qualifying lap was the completion of his thwarted bid for pole in Jeddah two years ago.

Verstappen was on course for pole at the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with a spectacular-looking lap until he hit the wall at the exit of the final corner.

Last weekend in Monaco he looked similarly on the limit again, and this time managed to complete the lap and take pole despite brushing the walls again.

Following Verstappen’s win in Sunday’s race, Horner said his driver “did 70% of the job in sector three” on his final lap of qualifying.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monaco, 2023
Verstappen took pole with a scintillating run
“That lap I think will go down as one of the all-time great laps here in Monaco,” Horner told media including RaceFans. “It was stunning.”

“I obviously follow the live telemetry and in sector one he matched his best, then in sector two already around [Fairmont] hairpin he was starting to find a bit of time. He then had a very good 10-11 through the chicane so his middle sector was already building.

“And then literally as he came into the Swimming Pool, that’s where he lit it up in that part where he crashed a few years ago, the corner that claims, pretty much most of them. And then Rascasse I think he touched every barrier. Even coming out of the final turn on the street, I mean you could see how wild he was after that lap. It was win-it-or-bin-it for sure and it was stunning, absolutely stunning.”

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“Certainly qualifying was one of the best laps of his career,” Horner concluded. “It was quite outstanding. The lap that he almost finished in Saudi Arabia a couple of years ago, that was the completion of that lap.”

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Monaco, 2023
Alonso ‘left a bit of margin’, said McCullough
Verstappen wasn’t convinced the lap ranks as one of his best, but admitted he pushed the limits in pursuit of the vital pole position in Monaco.

“In qualifying you need to go all out and risk it all. My first sector wasn’t ideal in my final lap – I think turn one was a bit cautious – but then I knew that I was behind, so in the last sector I just gave it everything I had. I clipped a few barriers,” he said.

The Red Bull driver was two-tenths of a second slower than Fernando Alonso over the first two sectors of his final lap.

“I knew that the last lap I had to do it, because they improved. And I also knew going into the last sector I was down on them. So I had to push flat-out in the last sector, risk everything to get back the lap time. And luckily, we did.”

He claimed pole by 0.084 seconds over Alonso, who reckoned it was “one of the best laps for me in Monaco, for sure”. But he did not think he could have done anything differently to beat Verstappen.

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“Both laps in Q3, we were increasing the level of risk into uncomfortable level, let’s say. And I think both laps in Q3 were a little bit over the limit sometimes but everything went fine,” he said.

However Aston Martin’ performance director Tom McCullough thought his driver had left some margin compared to Verstappen.

“Ultimately that last lap, the margins, if you look at Max is rubbing the barriers, pushing it really hard, knowing that his first two sectors weren’t quick enough,” he said.

“I think Fernando was up quite a bit on his previous lap in the first two sectors. He leaves a bit of margin, he’s just bringing the car home. So ultimately I’m sure if he was to go do the lap again he could push a bit more through there.”

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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5 comments on “Verstappen’s Monaco pole run was the completion of his 2021 Jeddah lap – Horner”

  1. Weirdly I thought that too: it was the finale to the Jeddah lap, only successful. But that means neither was a perfect lap: in Jeddah, the risk failed; in Monaco 2023 2/3 of the lap were fine but not on the edge, as Horner says, 70% of the lap in the final sector. Brave and brilliant? Sure. Perfection? That’s Hamilton’s 2018 Singapore qualifying lap still. Which is best? WHo cares, both exceptional in different ways.

    1. @david-br the thing is, Verstappen was consistently faster than Alonso throughout qualifying in the final sector by around 0.2s – the advantage he had on his pole lap was no larger than he’d had earlier in the session, and was similar to the advantage that had persisted throughout the practice sesisons.

      Equally, if you look at the improvement in the final sector time for Verstappen, it wasn’t that dramatic when compared to other drivers – Leclerc, for example, improved by about the same amount as Verstappen did in the final sector on his final run, so that performance gain was not unique to Verstappen.

      What seems to have been more significant was Verstappen’s first sector, where he managed to set a sector time that was closer to Alonso’s first sector time than he’d managed up until then – that ensured that he was then able to use his performance advantage in the final sector to offset the advantage that Alonso had in the first sector.

      Horner is also talking utter nonsense about Verstappen only matching his personal best first sector time – because Verstappen clearly beat his previous personal best first sector time, by around 0.2s, on his final lap. If he’d only matched his previous best first sector time, he wouldn’t have been on pole – his lap time would have been closer to the 1m11.5s mark, which would have put him behind Alonso and Leclerc, and potentially also Ocon as well.

      1. anon – Clearly the Red Bull’s advantage was in the final sector, so that makes sense. Watching the onboard, what seemed exceptional was also that final sequence of corners, though, where Verstappen brushes breathtakingly close on every one, and it was instantly reminiscent of Jeddah 2021 (where the same risk eventually didn’t pay off). If he did all that in the final sector of Monaco but was still only the same 0.2 faster, I guess that’s kind of strange. But it was still amazing to watch.

  2. Tbh I was more impressed by verstappen’s almost-pole in jeddah 2021 than the pole here: a thing is doing miracles with a weaker car (merc was already faster then), a thing is bringing the strongest car to pole.

  3. That’s a really good way of putting it

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