Christian Horner was full of praise for Max Verstappen after the Dutchman’s amazing drive through the field in the United States Grand Prix, with the twenty-one-year-old climbing from eighteenth on the grid to finish second.
A broken suspension during Qualifying on Saturday had seen Verstappen fail to take to the track in Q2 and a subsequent penalty for a gearbox penalty left him down on the penultimate row of the grid, but he gained nine places on the opening lap before picking off his rivals to run inside the top five.
Verstappen then passed Valtteri Bottas in the pits to move into the podium positions, before Lewis Hamilton’s second pit stop promoted him to second, a position he would hold until the chequered flag despite pressure from behind from the World Championship leader.
“A stunning drive from Max again today starting eighteenth and finishing the first lap in ninth,” said Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team principal Horner. “He started on the Soft tyre and quickly made his way through the field.
“We then picked the right moment to undercut Bottas and go onto the Supersoft. At that point we thought it would be a two-stop race, but we then converted to a one-stop as Max was doing such a great job of managing his tyres.
“It then became all about the last ten laps as he closed in on Kimi and Lewis who was on a two-stop strategy had much faster pace was able to close in on the two lead cars. A good and fair fight between Max and Lewis over the last couple of laps gave Kimi [Räikkönen] the breathing space to take a well-deserved win and Max a fantastic second place.”
Whereas there was joy on one side of the garage, there was disappointment in the other as Daniel Ricciardo’s last United States Grand Prix with Red Bull before he joins the Renault Sport Formula One Team for 2019 lasted just eight laps, with Horner admitting the whole team feels for the Australian who has had the majority of the bad luck this season.
“For Daniel, having started the race strongly and looking so competitive it was hugely frustrating to lose him so early on with what looks like a repeat issue of Bahrain, where the engine energy store is suspected to have failed terminally,” said Horner.
“Thankfully we have one in more our allocation that we introduced in Sochi, meaning we should avoid a penalty in Mexico next weekend.
“The whole team feels for Daniel as we just want to see him finish on a high in the remaining races with us and for reasons beyond our control, in recent races, that hasn’t been possible.”