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Horner praises best Red Bull season start ‘in a long time’ after Verstappen victory at Imola

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Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner was left hailing his team’s best start to a season for years after Max Verstappen followed up his second place in Bahrain with a dominant win in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. But while there were celebrations at Red Bull, Horner also warned that he expected the fight with rivals Mercedes to remain fierce right down to the wire in 2021.

A searing start from Verstappen from third on the grid paved the way for his first win of the year, with the Dutchman passing Lewis Hamilton into Tamburello on Lap 1 – while Bahrain winner Hamilton then crashed into the wall at Tosa, before recovering to a distant second place, 22 seconds behind Verstappen as he claimed a dominant win for Red Bull.

READ MORE: Verstappen takes victory from Hamilton and Norris in action-packed Grand Prix at Imola

And despite new recruit Sergio Perez coming home point-less after finishing P12 following a spin into the gravel at the Villeneuve chicane, Horner was still happy with his team’s performance, after a day that saw Red Bull draw to within seven points of Mercedes at the top of the constructors’ standings – and Verstappen within a point of championship leader Hamilton.

“Max got a mega start and then braved it out into the first turn, and thereafter controlled the race brilliantly,” said Horner. “It’s always tough to lose a race like we did in Bahrain and it’s so marginal [with Mercedes]. And so to come here and get that victory, there’s only one point between the two drivers, a huge distance in this championship still to run.

2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix: Verstappen overtakes Hamilton at race start

“It’s by far the best start we’ve had for quite a few years,” he added, “so we just want to keep building the momentum. But it’s fantastic for Honda, their first win since [Ayrton] Senna in ’91 here. So we just want to build that momentum and keep that all the way through the year.”

Aside from Perez’s non-score, Horner’s optimism was also dented slightly by the recovery drive from Hamilton, who flew from P9 after his crash to his eventual second place, picking off cars with ease – while the reigning champion also took the fastest lap bonus point with an effort that was 0.822s quicker than Verstappen’s best lap, leaving Horner in no doubt that the Silver Arrows were still a potent force.

READ MORE: Verstappen and Hamilton at odds over whether they made contact in crucial start of Imola race

“We’ve got a good car [but] we can see Mercedes are still very, very quick,” said Horner. “Their [tyre degradation] is better than ours – you’ve only got to look at that at the end of the stint on the inter and their pace at the end of the race there.

“Lewis got the fastest lap by a decent margin. He had the benefit of the DRS but their pace was very, very strong and we’re going to have to go some to really keep them under pressure.”

logo 2021Constructors' standings post-Imola

PositionTeam NamePoints
1MercedesMercedes60
2Red Bull RacingRed Bull Racing53
3McLarenMcLaren41
4FerrariFerrari34
5Aston MartinAston Martin7
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