Horner: Verstappen had “enough margin” to come out ahead even if Alonso stopped for inters

Spread the love

Team principal and CEO at Red Bull, Christian Horner believes that Max Verstappen had “enough margin” over Fernando Alonso at the 2023 Monaco GP to come out ahead even if the Spaniard had pitted for intermediate tyres on his first stop. He also discussed how starting on the medium tyres was still the fastest way to run the race, despite how long they had run on the yellow-marked compound.

Photo Credit: Oracle Red Bull Racing

After going in different strategic directions on their starting tyres, with Verstappen on the medium tyres and Alonso on the hards, the pair was still circulating on those tyres when the rain hit the streets of Monte Carlo as the race approached two-thirds of its distance, with the Dutchman just over 10s ahead of the Aston Martin.

With the rain initially staying very localized on the run between Casino Square and Portier, Aston Martin decided to fit Alonso with a new set of medium tyres, hoping that the rain would fade away. But as it turned out, the rain intensity kept growing and reaching other parts of the circuit, requiring the Aston Martin to come back to the pits on the very next lap to change for the intermediate tyres.

Verstappen stayed out on his slicks on the lap Alonso made his first stop, and according to Christian Horner, who spoke to selected media after the race in Monaco, that is the only mistake the team and driver made throughout the race, in hindsight:

“Job one was to get the start, which he did pretty comfortably, and then he settled into the pace and he got a pit stop [gap] to [Esteban] Ocon pretty quickly, and was also able to pull the 10-seconds out to Fernando [Alonso] to get a safety car window.

“At that point, he was doing such a great job with the tyres, it gave us the longevity to go far enough to see what was going to happen with the weather.

“With 20-20 hindsight, we should have pitted one lap earlier to go onto the inter, but thereafter, he was very mature.

“When the rain came, he took it steady, he brought the tyres in and then closed out the race. A really top drawer drive from Max.”

Whilst many believe Aston Martin lost an opportunity to get an undercut and potentially get ahead of Verstappen had they stopped for inters on the first time of asking, Horner is adamant that the Dutchman had enough of a gap to come out in front even if he was several seconds slower than Alonso on his in-lap:

“I think we had enough margin with the nine or 10 seconds that Max had when he pitted that even five-six seconds off the pace, we’d have still been three or four up the road.

“I was surprised they took the medium tyre, so that totally let us off the hook, and then it was just a question of, ‘OK Max, just get it to the pits and let us get the car turned around’.”

“We had so much margin. We didn’t need to pressure and get the decision wrong. We had the time and the circuit, it wasn’t like it was flooding with rain.

“We could lose four, five, six seconds on an in lap and still come out ahead of Fernando [Alonso]. And basically, when we saw him leave the pits on slicks, it was a question of, ‘Don’t even try’.”

Horner praised Verstappen’s tyre-saving capabilities, pointing out that it allowed the two-time world champion and now a 39-time grand prix winner to nurse his tyres until the weather hit and opened up the strategic options relative to Aston’s fading hard tyres:

“I think the problem is that when someone is on a medium strategy and there is some weather around, that’s the up and downside. The quickest race was to start on the medium and go onto the hard tyre.

“You could get lucky at a certain point in time, but the way that Max made the medium last, his tyres, at the point the rain arrived, looked in better shape than Fernando’s tyres.”

Verstappen has now scored 144 points out of the six race weekends of 2023 so far, and leads the drivers’ championship by 39 points over his team-mate Sergio Perez. Red Bull has 249 points and sits dominant at the top of the constructors’ table, 129 points ahead of closest challengers Aston Martin.