Christian Horner felt fifth and sixth position was the best Aston Martin Red Bull Racing could have hoped for in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix after both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were forced to start from the back of the field after grid penalties for engine changes.
Both drivers took new Spec B power units for the race at the Sochi Autodrom after opting not to continue with the Spec C that had been used in the Italian and Singapore races, but despite reverting back to the older spec, both were able to climb through the field to finish best of the rest behind the two Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport and two Scuderia Ferrari drivers on Sunday.
“Finishing fifth and sixth behind Ferrari and Mercedes was the optimum we could have achieved from the back of the grid today, but it has been very encouraging to see the strong pace of the RB14 all weekend,” said team principal Horner, who heaped praise particularly on Verstappen after a storming rise through the field in the opening laps.
“A fantastic drive from Max today on his 21st birthday; it was a really mature performance and getting into the top six in the first seven laps was phenomenal to watch,” commented Horner.
“Max then led the race for a large percentage of the Grand Prix but of course we had to make the mandatory pit stop, which we did with ten laps to go, putting him out of touch with the leaders.
“With the Ultrasoft tyres being quite fragile he was unable to take the fight to Ferrari in the closing stages, bringing his car home in fifth place.”
Horner rued the first lap damage that compromised Ricciardo’s race, with the Australian unable to make as quick a move through the field as his team-mate, but once clear of Charles Leclerc in seventh, the team were able to bring him in for his mandatory pit stop and change the front wing for the last stint.
“Daniel unfortunately incurred front wing damage on the first lap, losing him front downforce, which he had to manage throughout the first part of the race,” said Horner.
“He was still able to make his way into the top six and once he was clear of Leclerc the Team was able to do a fast nose change and get him back out on track in sixth position.”