Christian Horner says Max Verstappen’s lap that took him to pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was one of the best of the season, but it is now up to the team to convert that into victory on Sunday and into the Dutchman’s maiden Drivers’ Championship.
Verstappen took his tenth pole position of the season at the Yas Marina Circuit on Saturday evening, with the current championship leader (on the basis of winning nine races in 2021 compared to Lewis Hamilton’s eight) ending more than three-tenths of a second ahead of his title rival.
The Dutchman benefitted from a tow from Red Bull Racing team-mate Sergio Pérez in setting his quickest lap time, and Team Principal Horner was delighted with the teamwork being completed by his two drivers when it really mattered.
“That was one of Max’s best laps of the year, but now we need to try and convert that tomorrow,” said Horner. “Both runs in Q3 were exceptional and it was great teamwork from Checo to give him the tow like he did, it was worth a tenth or two, but not half a second.
“Max has given it his all and is driving his heart out, he’s thrown everything at it today. Credit has to be given to Checo, he has been a real dutiful team-mate and sacrificed his laps tonight, we can’t ask for more than that.”
Horner admits starting on the medium Pirelli tyre would have been preferential for both drivers, but both Verstappen and Pérez will start on the soft tyre on Sunday.
However, he hopes the team can put it all together when it matters on Sunday to ensure Verstappen stays ahead of Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship despite the Yas Marina Circuit being one of the Briton’s strongest circuits.
“When we discussed strategies this morning we were very much 50/50, so we’re not overly upset to be starting on the softs, the medium is a bit more robust but it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out,” said Horner. “Track position will also be crucial given the degradation.
“We’ve just got to get our heads down and run our best race tomorrow, as we know how good Mercedes are around this track, it’s one of Lewis’ strongest circuits, so we need to focus on ourselves and hopefully we’ll do enough to win it.”