The car is like a go-kart: Max Verstappen bemoans Red Bull’s struggles in Monaco

PA Ready, Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, George Russell, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris, Imola, Dutch, Oracle

Max Verstappen qualified only sixth for the Monaco Grand Prix (Luca Bruno/AP) (AP)

Max Verstappen said his all-conquering Red Bull turned into a go-kart after his record-equalling run of eight consecutive pole positions came to an end in Monaco.

Charles Leclerc will start Sunday’s 78-lap race from the front of the pack after he held his nerve to qualify fastest for Ferrari ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri.

Leclerc’s team-mate Carlos Sainz finished third with Lando Norris fourth. George Russell and Lewis Hamilton qualified fifth and seventh respectively for Mercedes.

Verstappen will be flanked by the Mercedes drivers after he could manage only sixth. The Dutch driver, who has started on pole at every round so far this season, predicted in the build-up to this weekend’s event that the low-speed venue would not suit his Red Bull machinery. And he was proved right here after he finished three tenths back.

His Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, nicknamed the King of the Streets after claiming five of his six career victories at temporary tracks, qualified only 18th.

“We tried a lot of things and nothing made it better so I was stuck,” said Verstappen. “There was nothing I could do.

“You can see in the second sector we are so bad because when I touch the kerbs it upsets the car. It was incredibly difficult.

“The car is like a go-kart. It is like I am running without a suspension. The amount of times I almost jumped into the wall in the final corner was pretty incredible.

“We have had this problem since 2022 so it is not something new. For the past few years we have had a car advantage so it gets masked, but with everyone catching up, when you don’t improve your weakest point you get found out.

“And it is a fundamental problem so it will not get fixed in weeks. The last two or three races have been incredibly difficult, but this kind of track is the worst-case scenario for us.”

Verstappen’s off-colour qualifying display comes a week after he appeared out of sorts in Imola, only to pull out a surprise pole before holding off Norris’ late charge. Verstappen was also beaten by Norris at the previous round in Miami.

“I don’t think about that,” said Verstappen, when asked if the title race was starting to come alive. “So many things can happen.

“One bad race will not define the championship but I know that to win the championship you have to be consistent.”

Verstappen’s closest challenger is Leclerc, who will start Sunday’s race 48 points adrift of the Dutchman. The 26-year-old was raised in Monaco and has been on pole here twice before.

But Leclerc banged the barriers en route to taking pole in 2021, meaning he was unable to start the race. Ferrari then messed up his strategy the following season and he crossed the line only fourth. Indeed, the Monegasque has never even finished on the podium in Monte Carlo.

And Leclerc said: “I know more often than not in the past that qualifying is not everything.

“As much as it helps, we need to put everything together for Sunday’s race. In the past here we didn’t manage to do that, but we are in a stronger position and we are a stronger team. I am sure we can achieve great things tomorrow and the win is the target.”

Norris, 60 points behind Verstappen, said: “I thought at the beginning of the year that we would start to beat Red Bull and catch them and we have done that sooner than I expected.

“For us to be ahead here, and then close in Imola, and ahead in Miami is a very good sign so I am positive and looking forward to the future.”

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