Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur praised rival Max Verstappen in the wake of his record-breaking 10th consecutive grand prix victory.
He admitted Ferrari hoped to force Verstappen into a mistake by putting him under pressure at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, but it proved to no avail.
Carlos Sainz Jnr led the first 14 laps of the race before being passed by Verstappen. The Ferrari driver remained his closest rival until Red Bull’s Sergio Perez passed him with six laps to go.
“After a weekend like this you can say that we are not that far away, that it’s perhaps in term of pace during the weekend one or two tenths, not much more to stay in front,” said Ferrari team principal Vasseur.
“But it is like it is, they are still in front and they are, most of them, not doing mistakes. At least this weekend, I was expecting that by putting Max under pressure or into the fight, he could do some mistakes, but it was not the case at all this weekend, again.”
Although Verstappen did not buckle last weekend, Vasseur hoped to put him under pressure again in the future. “Let’s try again,” he said. “Let’s stay close to the two Red Bulls and it will be the best way to fight and perhaps to put them a little bit more under pressure.
“I think what is impressive is – for sure they always have the mega pace, from Monza to Monaco, you can cover all the aspects of the track, they were performing – this is impressive.
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“But the most impressive for me is that Max, it’s not just about the last 10 races, it’s about the last two years. I would say that he didn’t do a single mistake in the races.
“For sure it’s easier to not do mistakes when you have a margin on the others. But even in these kind of circumstances [at Monza], he’s able to manage the situation very well, he put some pressure on Carlos but never too much and then didn’t take risks.
“He knew that he had a difference of pace. He was convinced, I think like Checo did on the first weekend [in Bahrain], that if it’s not possible during the first stint it will be around the pit stop.”
That assessment proved correct, as Verstappen finally got past Sainz a few laps before both pitted. Vasseur admitted he realised before their pit stop that their tyre degradation would be too great to keep Verstappen behind.
“I was not very, very confident in the fight with Max after lap 10, when I saw that the pace was there and he had no degradation. I said ‘it will be quite difficult’. But overall, I think it’s in these kind of races where he was the most impressive, but to not do a single mistake over two seasons, it’s just mega.”
Red Bull also extended its record-breaking run of consecutive wins last weekend. Team principal Christian Horner said avoiding errors had been key to that.
“You’ve got to stay on top of your game,” Horner said. “And for me, that’s the most remarkable achievement this year so far, that we haven’t dropped the ball. We’ve managed to keep operating at an incredibly high level. And that’s something that’s not been seen before.”
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