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Horner praises ‘phenomenal’ turnaround by Red Bull at the end of ‘stressful’ Imola GP

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MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 05: Oracle Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner smiles on the grid

Christian Horner wasn’t able to sit back and enjoy a comfortable race win for Red Bull at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, instead like the rest of us forced to watch a nail-biting finish that saw Max Verstappen beat Lando Norris to the line by less than a second.

But considering where Red Bull started the Imola weekend, well off the pace on Friday in a car that Verstappen could barely keep on track, it was a remarkable turnaround by the team - and testament to the hard work that went on in the simulator back in Milton Keynes on Friday night.

READ MORE: Verstappen thrilled to take Imola victory as he reflects on ‘very difficult’ issue during late-race challenge from Norris

And while Horner was quick to pay tribute to both the simulator drivers and the wider team, he reserved special praise for the race winner.

“When you look at the turnaround we had from Friday into Saturday to get the pole and to get the victory again today, it’s been a phenomenal performance and turnaround by the team but also Max has been incredible this weekend, and again he’s had to work very hard for the pole and the victory.

2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix: Verstappen crosses the line just ahead of Norris to take victory at Imola

“I think he’s had a very busy weekend because he’s also competed in the 24 hours of Nurburgring [sim race] as well as being in the car, so he’s won two races today, one in a BMW M3 and one in a Formula 1 car. Max this weekend, you heard what it meant to him, the pole position yesterday he had to dig very deep and the performance today was a masterclass.”

Mid-race, Verstappen was given a black and white warning flag for track limit violations, which led to the “stressful” situation where any more infringements would have resulted in a time penalty. The Dutchman had to be inch-perfect in the closing stages under huge pressure from Norris in the McLaren.

HIGHLIGHTS: Relive the action from the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix as Verstappen wins in nail-biting finish

That McLaren has come alive since the papaya team introduced their big upgrade package in Miami, which in turn has shaken up the pecking order and given Horner pause for thought when it comes to the championship – especially given how many races are left in this record-breaking 24-round season.

“You can’t take anything for granted, we certainly don’t. We’ve won five out of seven [Grands Prix] and two out of two Sprints and seven out of seven poles, but the margins are fine, very fine.

IMOLA, ITALY - MAY 19: Race winner Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing

Verstappen's victory in Imola was very hard-won

“In year three of these rules there is always going to be convergence and you can see that, the look of the cars is converging, you can see the performance is converging and we are going to see more races like today with very fine margins.

“I think that arguably over the last couple of races yes [McLaren] have been our main competitor. I’d say they have definitely added performance to their car, the philosophy is very similar to our own, and you know they’ve definitely made a step.

“So, we definitely expect them to be competitive at all circuits, and there are certain circuits that play to our strengths and certain circuits that don’t. The last couple have been more if you like circuits that haven’t played to the inherent strengths of the car.”

READ MORE: Vettel pays tribute to Senna and Ratzenberger with emotional Imola demo run

Red Bull head into Monaco next weekend having won four out of the last five races there, and expect Sergio Perez to provide more of a threat given his street track prowess. Whether that will be enough to hold the threat of McLaren at bay remains to be seen.

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