After a frenetic, to say the least, Saudi Arabian GP, Max Verstappen had to settle for second place in Jeddah, as a number of different incidents between himself and title rival Lewis Hamilton determined the outcome of the race, most notably the one on lap 38, when, in a confusing sequence of events, Verstappen slowed down significantly before turn 27, and contact occurred between him and the Mercedes, leaving both with damaged cars.
Verstappen kept his lead after this hairy moment, before eventually giving it back to the Mercedes a few laps later.
Speaking to Sky Sports after the race, Christian Horner opened up on how tough the inaugural race at Jeddah was from his team’s perspective, and explained why the Dutchman slowed down on lap 38:
“That was a race very difficult to manage. Race control struggled with it as well with the amount of debris and VSC's, restarts and safety cars. I think we feel hard done by with the five-second penalty.
“Then the incident where Lewis has driven into the back of Max. They will go and explain it in front of the stewards. Max was trying to give the place up and we informed race control that we were going to give the place up.
“He lifted off. Lewis also lifted off. I don't know if he was messing around for the DRS line but it was clear that we were giving the place up. We informed race control that was what we were going to do.”
“It's weird though, because Lewis is slowing down behind. It sounds like he lifted off. Like he didn't want and didn't want to pass him there because of the DRS. We were trying to give the place up and Lewis drives into the back of him. Very frustrating and annoying,” Horner concluded.
The reason Verstappen had to give the position back, in the first place, was due to an incident on the previous lap, when Hamilton tried to overtake the Red Bull in the first corner, but Verstappen ran off track in order to keep his position, thus meaning a lasting advantage. Horner expands on the matter, and how the outcome has left his team frustrated:
“There had been debate about that [giving the place up after turn 1 incident] and Michael [Masi, race director] was adamant at that point you have to give the place up or it was going to go to the stewards and be a bigger penalty. So, we gave the place up. We informed race control.
“Lewis has overspeed there [into turn 1] and they have both gone wide. They both went off the circuit and it goes both ways. Both went in hard. This is what we have been going on with. Let them race.
“Does that warrant a five-second penalty? For me, I thought [it’s] on the harsh side.”
But there were positives to take away from the weekend, mainly the raw pace of the RB16B, in the hands of Max Verstappen, through the twisty first sector of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, acknowledges Horner:
“The first sector is down to the driver ad the second and third sectors are done to engine power. So, everyone can drive easy down the straight bits, but what Max was able to do he through the demands of sector 1 was impressive.
“It was his only chance to stay ahead. If you look at the performance across the lap, it was remarkable with what he was able to do.”
After the contact, Verstappen sustained significant damage and was limping home, said Horner.
“We need to see how much damage we picked up at the back of the car. It was a big old wack and then we saw some cuts on the tyres on the last two to three laps and [had to] bring it home.”
Looking ahead to the finale in Abu Dhabi, Horner laments his team’s low chances of winning the constructors’ title, but is excited about the prospect of a championship win in the drivers’ side:
“This team has put through an incredible campaign. We have taken on Mercedes. Who would have thought coming into this year? We have taken them all the way to the final race. Constructors' we are on the back foot and need a miracle to win that.
“But we have one more shot at this title with Max and we will do everything we can. Regroup and prepare. Either Lewis or Max will come out on top.
“The drivers’ [championship] is more prestigious and not the money. It’s were the prestige is and that is the one that people remember," he concluded.
Verstappen is level on points with Hamilton going into the final race of the season, the Abu Dhabi GP, in what is sure to be an exciting duel in the desert. All coverage and latest news from the decider will be available on MotorLAT.