Analyzing why Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez are struggling in the Monaco GP FP sessions

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco - Previews
Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez prior to 2024 F1 Grand Prix of Monaco (Image: Getty)

Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez put in surprisingly dismal outings in the first two free practice sessions of Monaco GP. While several factors could have contributed to their performances, it is understood that the crucial absence of two simulator drivers likely played a significant role.

Typically dominant, the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez struggled significantly, ending FP1 in 11th and 12th positions, respectively on medium tires. A switch to soft tires in FP2 saw some improvement, yet they only managed fourth and eighth places, respectively, on the timesheets, far off their usual front-running positions.

The day's fastest lap came from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who clocked a 1:11.278, demonstrating a strong start at his home Grand Prix. He was followed by Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton in second and Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso in third.

A significant contributing factor to Red Bull's struggles appears to be the absence of their simulator drivers, Sébastien Buemi and Jake Dennis. Both drivers, instrumental in refining car setups, are unavailable due to their commitments in the Formula E race in Shanghai this weekend.

Their absences led to a frustrated Max Verstappen finishing the FP2 0.535 seconds behind the leader Charles Leclerc. The reigning three-time world champion even lightly grazed the barriers at Portier at one instance during FP2. Though his car remained undamaged, it marked the second consecutive practice session in which Red Bull seemed to be lacking speed.

Max Verstappen claims Ferrari were "miles ahead" of Red Bull in Monaco

Speaking to the media after the race, Max Verstappen expressed that the difficulties encountered during the Monaco GP practice sessions were more severe than anticipated, marking an especially tough start to the weekend for Red Bull. He said (via BBC):

"It is not something I didn’t expect but it’s definitely at the higher end of the worst possible outcome of the weekend so far. It’s just very difficult.

He added:

"There are a lot of bumps and kerbs and camber changes in the track and for us that is basically impossible to take. Every time we go over it, we lose a lot of lap time just because the car doesn’t ride well. There is also no really clear direction or solution to try and solve something like that."

Max Verstappen noted their efforts to improve the car's performance but remains realistic, not expecting drastic improvements as the weekend progresses. Addressing Charles Leclerc's impressive performance, the 26-year-old added:

"We will try to make it a little better but I don’t expect any miracles. (Ferrari) are miles ahead so I’m not even thinking about that, just want to solve the issues we have."

Despite facing difficulties in Monaco practice sessions, Max Verstappen leads the F1 Drivers' standings. He has five wins and six podium finishes to his name after seven races.

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