Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner took the conservative approach to ensure Max Verstappen brought home the necessary points in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the Baku City Circuit.
It was a mixed weekend for the team, although better than last year’s event that saw Horner’s drivers of Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo come together and throw away a good haul of points.
This time however, the Dutchman had a “strong” drive to bring home twelve points for the Milton Keynes-based squad, and at times was the quickest driver in the field.
“Max drove a strong race today. Unfortunately, after losing a position at the start to Pérez, by the time he managed to get back past, he’d lost touch with the lead group,” Horner said.
“He then drove a very strong middle stint and caught the lead group by 10 seconds. He was within three seconds of Sebastian before the Virtual Safety Car, ironically caused by Pierre, which took too much temperature out of his tyres and he just didn’t have the same pace after that.
“Not knowing fully what had happened with Pierre’s car, we decided to make sure that we got Max to the finish and he drove a conservative final few laps.”
Whilst Verstappen had a clean race, his team-mate Pierre Gasly had to pull off with thirteen laps left in the race with driveshaft failure, with Horner feeling it was the Frenchman’s strongest weekend to date since his move from Scuderia Toro Rosso.
“For Pierre, whilst it’s been frustrating for him results wise, this has actually been his strongest race weekend of the year to date,” said Horner.
“He drove a very strong race today and when you compare his pace to Charles Leclerc, who started the race on the same tyre, for fifty percent of his first stint he was faster than Charles. Unfortunately, a driveshaft issue caused his retirement fifteen laps before what would have been an easy sixth place.
“Pierre can take an awful lot of positives out of the weekend for a very strong performance and it’s positive that we’ve taken a step closer to Mercedes and Ferrari.”
The result sees Max Verstappen dropping to fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, and Gasly down a place to seventh. Red Bull remain in third though with sixty-four points, thirty-five behind second placed Ferrari.