Horner reveals why Verstappen had to slow down. Max Verstappen had to work a little harder to claim a record-equalling tenth consecutive victory last weekend. The Dutchman had ‘only’ secured second place on the grid behind Carlos Sainz at Ferrari’s home race in Monza and had to fight his way past the Spaniard, who was carrying the hopes of all the tifosi, in Sunday’s race.
“You could see what pole meant to the tifosi,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, who was kept awake by the fans in his hotel on Sunday night.
“I was in the same hotel as the Ferrari drivers and at some point around 1am they finally calmed down a bit.”
Ferrari pushed their engines to the max
And Horner could see just how desperate Ferrari were to win, not only from the fact that Sainz defended himself like a lion, but also from the fact that Ferrari had installed a completely new drive unit for both drivers for Monza, which was also a factor in Saturday’s pole position.
“I also think they pushed their engines extra hard,” says Horner.
“New engines always have that little bit of extra power. And Monza is such an important place in their season that you could see their package was specifically designed for speed on the straights…”
Red Bull bided their time with Ferrari chewing tyres
But Red Bull were optimistic going into the race, knowing that they had set up their car for the race and that it should normally be better than Ferrari there.
“Max could see that they were pushing their rear tyres a bit harder and that was part of our strategy during the set-up. We knew the temperatures were going to be a bit higher,” said the team boss.
“Carlos defended himself pretty hard, which is what you do in a Ferrari at Monza,” he continued, “but at some point Max came along.”
According to Horner, Verstappen went full throttle and had to fight hard against the Ferraris.
“But Max is very smart in a situation like that and he targeted Carlos’ weaknesses and made him use up his tyres. It was tight in Turn 1 a couple of times, but eventually it worked…”
Verstappen must keep his distance
After the manoeuvre on lap 15, Verstappen really just had to manage the race and didn’t seem to have any problems with that. However, there did seem to be some minor issues at Red Bull in the closing stages, as with five laps to go, Verstappen was told by his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to slow down a little.
“Max, could you please increase the distance to Gasly?” he said, pointing out that it was “a pretty urgent request”. He went on to ask Verstappen several times to keep a little more distance from his former team-mate.
Concern after Tsunoda’s Monza exit
Team boss Horner explained: “He was having some temperature issues and we just didn’t want to take any chances. It was a bloody hot day and we had the temperatures under control, but there were a couple of cars ahead of Gasly and we didn’t want to get dirty. That’s why we took it a bit easier in the last few laps.
There was also constant concern about what had happened to Yuki Tsunoda, who was stranded on the formation lap with an engine problem and unable to start. “We have the same gearbox, the same engine and a lot of the same components,” says Horner, “so it’s not reassuring when the car rolls out on the warm-up lap.
Red Bull celebrate unbeaten European season
But all went well for Verstappen and Red Bull, with the points’ leader celebrating his tenth consecutive victory and setting a new record. Red Bull are also still on course to win every race this season.
“To finish the European season undefeated is something we never dreamed of,” said Horner.
“Winning a Grand Prix is difficult enough, but when you win 14 in a row and 24 of the last 25, it means every member of the team is playing their part.
“We are racing against tough opposition and taking it race by race. The next race in Singapore is a street circuit, one of the most difficult on the calendar. We saw last year how dangerous it can be. So we’re just doing our best to keep the momentum going.”
— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) September 1, 2023