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Verstappen braced for ‘more difficult’ weekend in Monaco with rivals ‘definitely closing’ on Red Bull

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MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 23: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing attends

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen has admitted that the upcoming Monaco Grand Prix is likely to be “one of the more difficult” weekends for himself and the team in 2024, given the tight, twisty track layout, as they also look to fend off a growing threat from McLaren and Ferrari.

Verstappen started the season with four comfortable wins from the opening five races as he bids to claim what would be a fourth successive world title, while Red Bull are attempting to net a third successive constructors’ championship.

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However, recent upgrades from McLaren saw Lando Norris beat Verstappen to victory in Miami via a mid-race Safety Car, and then push the Dutchman all the way in Imola last time out – crossing the line just seven-tenths adrift in P2.

As the F1 paddock moves swiftly on to Monaco, Verstappen is not only wary of the successful developments McLaren and Ferrari are bringing to the track, but the side note that Red Bull have typically struggled on slower speed street tracks in recent years.

Asked for his predictions ahead of the weekend, Verstappen said: “I think looking at the track layout it’s probably not going to be our best track, just because our car normally struggles a bit over bumps and kerbs.

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“We did work on it a bit compared to last year. I think so far on most of the tracks that we’ve been to our low-speed performance has improved a little bit, but I don’t think this is going to be a very easy weekend.

“But I think Monaco never is very straightforward, even when you’re supposed to have the best car. Monaco is a very tricky track to get everything to work, to get the tyres to work in a quali lap, for example, red flags, there’s always a lot of disruption.

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“A lot of things can go right, but also a lot of things can go wrong. We just need to be on it. Of course, Imola started off really bad and we managed to turn it around. I wouldn’t want to have a weekend like that again, it’s quite stressful and not nice!”

Amid McLaren and Ferrari’s strong form, Verstappen, who has claimed pole position for all seven Grands Prix so far this year, is expecting a fierce battle to keep that 100% record intact – and stressed the importance of Red Bull executing a perfect weekend.

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 23: George Russell of Great Britain and Mercedes, Max Verstappen of the

Verstappen joined some of his fellow drivers for Thursday’s press conference in Monaco

“I mean, naturally, from the outside, I think it is one of the more difficult tracks for us,” he continued. “Plus, in the last few years, I think Ferrari has always been very, very strong here. Plus, McLaren lately, the last two races, really ramped up in performance.

“I think after Miami, it was quite clear when we went into Imola that [the gap between teams] had all closed up a bit, even though Imola was probably also not our easiest weekend. For sure, Monaco is always like that anyway.

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“It will depend now on who will put more performance on the car, find the best possible set-up on the car. From our side it makes it of course very important to try and be at our very best, 100%. I know that is not always a very realistic possibility, but you always try to get to a certain point.

“Maybe the last few races we haven’t been operating at that [top level], but every single weekend we try again, we try to find the best possible set-up in the car. But for sure you can see it’s definitely closing up.”

Verstappen heads into the Monte Carlo weekend with a 48-point advantage over Charles Leclerc in the drivers’ standings, while Red Bull sit 56 points clear of nearest rivals Ferrari in the constructors’.

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