Max Verstappen has admitted Monza is “definitely the most challenging track” of the year for Red Bull Racing. The high demand for engine power and little requirement of aerodynamics throws up a setup that just doesn’t suit the RB12 car.
To make things worse, Ferrari, Red Bull’s nearest challenger, appear to have pulled ahead in the running order, proving themselves as the next best team behind Mercedes. Other than circuit characteristics, another reason Ferrari have jumped ahead is their new power unit upgrade. The historic Italian used it’s remaining 3 tokens to develop the unit in all areas. On the other hand, Red Bull are still running the far slower Renault engine, thought to be considerably down on horsepower.
On the long runs in FP2, Red Bull managed to secure 5th and 6th place, proving they aren’t too bad off in terms of pace. However they’re along way off the pace of Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton on average a second faster than Ricciardo on his soft tire run. But Max Verstappen was still quietly optimistic and hasn’t counted himself out yet, saying after FP2: “we are a little bit too far behind Mercedes, but if we get everything sorted for tomorrow, we can get closer.”
Red Bull will also have to look out for Williams, who are known to run high fuel throughout Friday practice as too not give a true representation of their pace. If they aren’t showing their full hand yet, then Red Bull have cause for concern as Bottas was only a mere 5 tenths off Verstappen’s pace in FP2.
On a brighter note, Daniel Ricciardo believes that’ll Red Bull’s strength this weekend will come from the strategy. Although Monza has traditionally been a one-stop race, bringing the super-soft tires this weekend has prompted many to consider a two-stop without running the prime tire. Daniel Ricciardo is confident he can still execute a faster one-stop because “Max did a fairly long stint on the supersofts and the result looked good.” If Red Bull can make a one-stop work it will likely force many other teams onto a similar strategy to avoid Red Bull benefitting majorly.
Lastly, Red Bull should take confidence from previous years. Vettel won this race for Red Bull with the slowest speed in the the trap – proving this circuit isn’t quite all about the engines…
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