Horner calls Verstappen the best driver on the grid after Austria win
When Max Verstappen backed his Red Bull RB15 into the barriers in FP2 of the Austrian Grand Prix weekend, it looked as though the spell of his fantastic 2019 form might have been broken – a thought given more weight when, after ending up P2 on the grid after qualifying, he then bogged down off the line at the race start and fell to eighth place on the first lap.
What F1 fans were treated to next though was, quite simply, one of the performances of 2019 so far, as Verstappen sliced through the field, passing supposedly superior Mercedes and Ferrari machinery, to claim his second straight Austrian Grand Prix win, sealing the deal with a late pass on Charles Leclerc. And it was enough to leave Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner in no doubt that Red Bull’s 60th Grand Prix win had been one of their greatest…
“What a drive!” said Horner. “To win here in Austria, Red Bull car, to get Honda’s first win as well since 2006, in the style and manner he did was the perfect day for us.
“That’s right up there with the best wins we’ve had. The fightback, dropping [to eighth on the first lap] and then to come back fighting through the field, managing the tyres, managing the brakes. You heard him on the radio, he’s such a cool operator now, and the relationship he’s got with his engineer, working and turning the car through the race, it’s a joy to be a part of and to see in action. An amazing performance by him.”
Horner was later asked whether he believed that, in Verstappen, Red Bull currently had the best driver in F1 driving for them. Horner didn’t hesitate as he replied: “I have thought that for a little while.”
The engine has just been getting better and better and better. Honda have done a fantastic job
While Horner was naturally full of praise for his driver, key to the Verstappen’s victory had been the searing pace of the Red Bull-Honda package in the latter stages of the race, allowing him to secure Honda’s first F1 since returning to the sport in 2015. And Horner paid tribute to the efforts of the Japanese manufacturer, who had had several of their executives at the Red Bull Ring to witness Honda’s first F1 victory since the Jenson Button’s 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix win.
“The engine has just been getting better and better and better,” said Horner. “Honda have done a fantastic job. When they came back into the sport, they had a tough time in the years they were with McLaren. They moved to Toro Rosso last year and had some time to get their house in order, and start to progress.
“We saw that progress and saw the potential they have, which is why we changed supplier to Honda. Since then, all we have seen is a real dedication and determination, and that’s why today having won that race, Tanabe San [Honda F1’s Technical Director, Toyoharu Tanabe] went to collect the trophy for the constructor today. After all the effort they have put in, it was great to see Japan represented up there.”
Verstappen’s performance in Austria moved him above Sebastian Vettel to third in the drivers’ standings, with the Dutchman taking a full haul of 26 points from the weekend after setting the fastest lap of the race. Meanwhile, Red Bull’s first victory of the season helped them close up slightly in the constructors’ fight, the third-placed team taking 32 points from the weekend to Ferrari’s 30 and Mercedes’ 25.