Horner jokes that Verstappen “seemed to be doing the strategy for both cars” during F1 Abu Dhabi GP

Spread the love

For the third year in a row, Red Bull Racing has closed the chapter on another historic and record-breaking F1 season.

Team principal, Christian Horner, has reflected on the year, paying homage to the speed, skill, and strategy within the team. After dominating the 2023 season, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez took centre stage at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, securing their year-long reign within the sport.

Photo Credit: Red Bull Racing

Horner discussed the team’s strategy decisions, the last-minute Charles Leclerc and Perez switch, and their troubles during FP3 at the Yas Marina circuit.

Strategy Dilemmas:

With the team’s major competitive edge, it seems that Verstappen could have won the race in Abu Dhabi no matter what strategic calls were made throughout the race. Verstappen finished over 17 seconds ahead of Leclerc in second place, and Mercedes’ George Russell in third.

Horner revealed, “Well actually going into the race we were planning on a one-stop and then we deviated to a two because we saw the deg on the medium tyre was a little more than we were liking.”

He noted that a one-stop strategy may have worked with Verstappen as he “had the pace and the ability to manage the tyre.”

But the team principal admitted that with Perez, “it just looked like he was going to run out of tyres towards the end of the race”

The two-stop decision showcased the team’s adaptability and ability to make strategic calls under high pressure, “that’s why we put both of the cars on a two-stop. And a great shame for Checo because I think he should have been on the podium today.”

The Leclerc/Perez switch:

Late-race drama saw a strategic dance between Red Bull and Ferrari, with Perez facing a 5-second penalty.

Leclerc made a call over team radio to aid Perez whilst fending off Russell in order to secure Ferrari their sought-after second-place spot in the Constructor’s Championship. Giving Perez the slipstream, Leclerc needed him to finish five seconds ahead of Russell.

Despite Leclerc’s strategy call, Perez failed to make up the time, causing Mercedes to retain their second place in the Constructors Championship.

Horner commented on the Leclerc/Perez switch, stating, “It was a logical thing to do from Ferrari’s position.

“The problem is that he only half did the job.

“I think as Checo has demonstrated in that section of the circuit you can hold up quite a bit of time there. So, I think Charles needed to hold off George a little more to get that extra second but it just means we’ve got a different neighbour next year.”

Verstappen’s dominance and the season overview:

Acknowledging Verstappen’s unparalleled season where he won 19 of the 22 races and 10 in a row from Miami to Monza, Horner praised both the driver and the team:

“I think Max and the team this year, the standard that we’ve been able to hit to win 21 out of 22 races, to have led with Max over a thousand laps out of 1300 or so, to have broken so many records, I think he’s hit yet another level.”

Leading over a thousand laps and breaking record after record, Verstappen’s performance has marked the season as one of the most dominant in Formula One history.

Horner addressed the possibility of repeating such a season, noting the evolving nature of the sport: “I don’t think we’ll ever be able to repeat the season that we’ve had.” He highlighted the need to learn from the RB19 and apply those lessons to future cars, recognising that competitors will move closer in the coming season.

“Nothing stands still, and we’ve seen competitors coming closer at different venues and I’m sure concepts will converge, stable regulations are always a concertina, so I don’t think we’ll ever be able to repeat the season that we’ve had.”

Has anyone got close to Red Bull?

After winning the first race of the season in Bahrain by 11 seconds, and the final race of the year by 17 seconds, Horner was questioned if he thought any of the other teams were edging closer to Red Bull.

Reflecting on the season’s competition, Horner acknowledged the ebb and flow of the rival teams, “It’s moved around from venue to venue, and I think, particularly Max this year, he’s just been outstanding.

He joked, “he’s been on top of the car, the strategy, the tyres. We almost didn’t need the strategist today because he seemed to be doing the strategy for both of the cars.”

The Marko bet:

After experiencing some problems in FP3, Horner recalled that “Helmut was convinced we were in trouble”, but changes to the car following final practice and reverting more towards their FP2 set-up turned it around.

The pair made a bet — if Max Verstappen could get on the front row at the Grand Prix on Sunday or not. Marko has since claimed that he should ‘know better’ and that the Dutchman’s talent isn’t anything to underestimate.