Horner “surprised McLaren didn’t pre-empt” first F1 Canadian GP safety car when they “were the favourites to just walk away and win”

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Max Verstappen secured his 60th Grand Prix victory on Sunday as he held off the McLarens and Mercedes’ to take an impressive win.

Christian Horner discussed all the key moments in his post-race media session, praising the job the driver and the team did on the pit wall to take that tremendous win.

“The crucial thing to win a race was for the driver to do his part, the team to do their part, get the pit stops at the right time, the crossover at the right time, and keep it on the island.

“But no, I think Max was obviously in those conditions […] you’re driving on your senses and I think he did an incredible job today.

“But working with the pit wall, we got it right.”

After holding P2 off the line, Verstappen put lots of pressure on George Russell in the opening stages, looking like he had a pace advantage in the process.

However, a mistake at turn 2 on lap 17 lost him around 2s, opening the door for a charging Lando Norris to get within DRS and pass him a few laps later.

Norris breezed past Russell on the next lap, building an 8-second lead over Verstappen as the McLarens had a big pace advantage towards the end of the opening stint.

“I think when you look at the race and break it down, I think the first thing today, we looked very competitive at the beginning of the race and we were pushing George pretty hard and pulled out seven seconds very quickly on the cars [Norris and Piastri] behind.

“So I think in the wetter condition we were set up pretty well for.

“And then, unfortunately, we just dropped a little back from George as the DRS opened, which then allowed […] obviously Lando was, as the track was drying out, it looked like the Mercedes was in more trouble.

“We were struggling to get past and that then gave Lando a free pass. And at that point, it looked like McLaren were the favourites to just walk away and win the race.”

The turning point from there was the failure of Norris to box at the end of lap 25 when the safety car was deployed. He spent a lap behind it and got jumped by Verstappen and Russell who came in at the right time.

“Then, obviously, pit stops came and we went on to another new set of inters. There was a safety car at that first point. So that then neutralised everything.

“I think the adjustments that we made then, we were then able to get ourselves into a better position.

“And, yeah, I mean, obviously, Lando stayed out with me at that point, so he then reappears in third.”

Holding around a 3.5s lead over Russell and Norris, Verstappen was able to respond to Piastri and Hamilton who boxed before him for dry tyres with just over 25 laps to go.

Norris tried to overcut on his warm inters as the track continued to dry, but Horner believes McLaren made a mistake by keeping him out for 2 laps instead of 1.

The Red Bull team boss says it allowed Verstappen to get heat in his tyres and could retain the lead in the process.

Norris had got the gap up to 21.4s but had absolutely no grip on pit exit that was still wet when he rejoined, losing out to the Dutchman.

From there, the now 60-time Grand Prix winner masterfully controlled the event.

“And the car, I thought we were in a much better window as the circuit dried out. We were able to hold a consistent gap.

“And then it was all about getting that crossover at the right time, because the first sector was pretty damp. And when you drive out of the pit lane, you obviously lose a huge amount of the temperature.

“So I felt that we timed that about right, going on to the medium tyre.

“And then, whilst Lando was able to capitalise enough to give him, essentially, hit the 20-second mark, and it hovered around that for a lap.

“Obviously, with each lap we did, the tyres were getting warmer. I was surprised that they didn’t cover after one lap, they left him for two. And that was crucial, because it gave Max another lap to generate the temperature.

“So when Lando did pit, he just had tyres that were in the window, and was able to drive straight past and pull out pretty much a three second gap by sector one. So that timing was crucial.

“And then, obviously, there was quite a fight going on behind us.

“And then the safety car, with a few laps to go, it was then a straight fight with Lando who had two laps better tyres than us.

“George had taken the opportunity to pit, Lewis had taken the opportunity to pit, because they essentially only conceded one place.

“And we had good enough pace to pull away and pull out a 3-second gap by the end of the race.

“So as the circuit dried out, we had good pace, good degradation.

“And it was a fantastic race for Max to win.”

Horner spoke further on the strategies that had been employed by Red Bull during the race. He was asked about what they would have done had McLaren pitted Lando Norris at the end of lap 25, stating they would have still pitted as the intermediates they started on were finished.

Yuki Tsunoda stayed out, as did Esteban Ocon. It worked well for both drivers as they held their own on the inters before switching to dries, moving them into P7 and P10 respectively.

“No, we would have come in because the tyres were toast. And we knew the rain was coming. All the information was that rain was coming.”

Horner admits he was very surprised McLaren did not anticipate the safety car and make the call to box Norris at the same time as the other main runners.

“So, we were surprised that they didn’t pre-empt it, to be honest with you. Because it looked like it was going to be a safety car.

“But it was kind of payback for, I think the GP made the comment, which I felt was 40 laps too soon, but effectively it was sometimes the way that safety cars go, and it was payback for Miami.”