If news headlines and quotes attributed to key figures in the Red Bull camp are to be believed, the Red Bull team are struggling to keep pace in Monaco. But a deeper dive into some of the key analytics gathered during the first day’s practice in Monte Carlo may have exposed a very different picture.
All appeared well after FP1, with Max Verstappen topping the timesheets and team-mate Sergio Perez listed a strong third.
But the second session of the day produced very different fortunes for the team as the two Red Bulls fell down the order to fourth and eighth, respectively, as the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr took over at the top of the timesheets.
After FP2, Verstappen cut a frustrated figure as he spoke about the team’s relative lack of pace in the second session of the day.
“We are too slow,” he stated.
“And not just a little bit, I think quite a bit. “So we need to really find some pace because everyone has traffic, so you have to look a bit more to optimum lap times, so optimum sectors, and we’re quite off.
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But Formula 1 journalist Lawrence Barretto has delved into the performance stats of Red Bull during the opening two sessions and offered a more optimistic view.
‘When our data team dug into the numbers and worked out their performance taking things like fuel loads and tyre life into consideration, they topped both the short and long run charts,” he revealed.
“So while Red Bull may be talking a lot about Ferrari and Mercedes’ pace around Monaco so far this year, it could well be deflection, as they appear to look pretty handy themselves.”
If that assessment is proved correct, we can expect to see Red Bull on the pace during Saturday’s qualifying session.
The tight, twisty streets of Monte Carlo form the most iconic circuit on the F1 calendar, but they also represent the toughest test for drivers looking to make places during the race.
With passing opportunities at a premium, qualification pace is crucial as the teams look to secure starting spots as close to the front of the field as possible where they can avoid being mired in the midfield while staying clear of any early trouble as the cars race at close quarters during the early laps.
Mercedes are sure to be strong, as always, while Ferrari are showing signs of genuine improvement.
But Red Bull’s performance on Saturday will be the most fascinating, as we find out for sure whether Verstappen and Perez really are struggling at Monaco, or whether they were holding a little performance back for when it mattered most.