Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner lauded Max Verstappen for an “unbelievable” Austrian Grand Prix victory, Red Bull’s first of the 2019 Formula 1 season.
Verstappen took victory in front of a partizan crowd at the Red Bull Ring, after a late charge to catch and pass Charles Leclerc on lap 69 of 71.
Red Bull and Verstappen survived a post-race investigation on the Dutchman’s strong move on Scuderia Ferrari driver Leclerc at Turn 3, that resulted in contact between the two cars and left Leclerc angered at being forced off the track.
Speaking after the stewards decision, Horner said that it was the correct call and that the battle between two of the series’ hottest prospects was “exactly” what F1 needed following criticism over a lacklustre French Grand Prix and Mercedes AMG Motorsport winning all eight of the first eight races of ’19.
“It was a tense wait after the race but the stewards made the right decision,” Horner said.
“What happened today between Charles and Max is hard racing and I think that’s what Formula 1 is all about – it’s two young guys going for it.
Formula 1 has come under a lot of criticism recently and I think today’s race was an exciting one with overtaking, tyre degradation and drama – exactly what the doctor ordered!
“We came to Austria as outsiders and so to win here is a dream come true and I think that was Max’s best win.”
The win was the team’s first of the season, and new engine supplier Honda‘s first since Jenson Button‘s victory at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix – back when Honda had its own works team.
Verstappen suffered a poor start from second on the grid, his anti-stall kicking in and dropping him to seventh place by the first corner, but a longer first stint on the medium compound tyres enabled him to utilise a fresh set of hard tyres in the second half of the race.
He passed Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and Leclerc in the closing stages to take a sixth F1 victory with a performance that Horner described as “unbelievable”.
“What an unbelievable performance by Max today,” Horner added.
“To win the race here in Austria and to give Honda its first victory with a V6 hybrid is unbelievable.
“Winning our home race means an enormous amount to everyone in the Red Bull family. Mr [Dietrich] Mateschitz [Red Bull founder] has put so much into the sport with both Red Bull and [sister team] Toro Rosso, so it means an incredible amount to deliver this victory for a second year running.”
Verstappen also lapped seventh placed team-mate Pierre Gasly, despite exiting the first corner next to the Frenchman.
Horner said that his win over Alfa Romeo Racing‘s Kimi Räikkönen in a lengthy battle was a positive, and understands that it is not easy for the Frenchman to compete with a team-mate in the form of his career so far – but holds faith in Gasly closing the gap to Verstappen as he grows into the team.
“It was a tough race for Pierre but he managed to make progress and pass Räikkönen,” said Horner.
“When your teammate is performing at this level the benchmark is extremely high, but with time and as his confidence builds, Pierre will close the gap.
“Our target in the Constructors’ Championship is Ferrari and we need both cars to score the maximum points possible.”