MONACO: Max Verstappen shrugged off the prestige of the Monaco Grand Prix on Thursday and said he lamented engine suppliers Honda’s decision to switch from his Red Bull team to Aston Martin in 2026.
The defending double world champion and early leader of this year’s title race, told reporters that the Monaco Grand Prix was the most challenging race of the season, but no more valuable than any others.
“For us, yes, it is the most difficult to win, probably,“ he explained. “And especially if you have a setback in qualifying, but we will see.
“I want to win, of course, but you don’t get any more points here because it is Monaco. So, you do what you can and then you pack up and get ready for the next one.”
After three wins in the opening five races this year, the Dutchman leads his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, last year’s Monaco winner, by 14 points ahead of Sunday’s 80th running of the classic Mediterranean street circuit contest.
Mexican Perez, who won in Jeddah and Baku this year, has developed a reputation as a street track specialist and is keen to succeed again this weekend to endorse his challenge to Verstappen for the drivers’ crown.
“At such circuits, you have to be very strong in the race,“ he said. “Very strong with the pressure and to be able to handle it. You’re not able to make mistakes -- you can’t get away with them.
“I think I probably have more confidence than others come race day on these tracks but at the end of the day I won in Baku on pure pace, so it doesn’t matter if it’s a street circuit or a permanent circuit.
“And if I can do it in Baku, I can do it anywhere.”
- Honda ‘unfortunate’ -
Verstappen was clearly disappointed with Honda’s decision to re-enter Formula One as an exclusive and official full engine supplier, having only withdrawn from that position with Red Bull in 2021.
Red Bull has since set up its own power unit section and has already agreed to partner with Ford in the development of the 2026 engine.
However, Verstappen said it was “unfortunate, the way all of that turned out”, referring to his sense of loss having enthused about Honda’s racing traditions in the past.
“A few years ago, they said they were going to stop so Red Bull set up their own engine division but then they said ‘no, we continue’.
“It’s a bit of a shame, I would say, to see them go to Aston Martin.”
He added that “we are all very excited about what’s going to happen with Ford” but conceded that Aston Martin were going to have a “great engine”.
He also supported Mercedes’ decision this week to bring their car with a heavily-updated package to Monaco, following the flooding in Italy where last weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was cancelled.
“For me, I would always put it on the car as soon as possible rather than leave it in the garage,“ he said, responding to suggestions that Monaco may not be a suitable circuit for testing so many new parts.
“But it is really difficult to know what to expect of Mercedes now.”
Verstappen also brushed off rumours linking seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton with a move to Ferrari.
“It’s not my problem,“ he said. “It is Lewis’s decision. I think he is really happy at Mercedes. They’ve won a lot.
“But maybe it is good for him as it ups the price at Mercedes a little bit.” -AFP