Red Bull team principal Christian Horner refused to hop on the George Russell hype train despite the Mercedes star’s thrilling battle with Max Verstappen at the Spanish Grand Prix. Fans went wild at the back-and-forth between the young F1 duo, which was made more interesting by the Dutchman’s faulty DRS system.
Wheel-to-wheel action between Verstappen and Russell was virtually impossible before this season. Last year, the former was fighting for the world title with Lewis Hamilton, while the latter was still loitering towards the back of the grid with Williams.
But since stepping up to the Silver Arrows, Russell has looked the most likely driver to take the fight to Ferrari and Red Bull this year. And onlookers were treated to a rare battle on Sunday as Verstappen, who was attempting to fight back after an earlier spin, spent several laps trying to squeeze past Russell.
But the Englishman stood firm and even unleashed some slick moves of his own when it looked as though the Red Bull star had got past. Eventually, strategy made the difference as Verstappen went on to win the Grand Prix, and Horner was not as amused as some.
“[The battle] was a bit one-armed because Max didn’t have full use of his DRS,” Horner told the F1 Nation podcast. “George was getting his elbows out at turn one. It was good, hard racing and I think this generation are really exciting racers and I think we’ve got many years to come.”
Verstappen had a rollercoaster Sunday in Spain, growing irate over the team radio at his faulty DRS system. Charles Leclerc’s engine failure helped him out a great deal, however, and the result has landed him with the Drivers’ Championship lead before Monaco.
Verstappen’s triumph was also made possible by his Red Bull team-mate, Sergio Perez, who had to move out of the way under team orders. At the time, the Mexican labelled the decision ‘very unfair’, and after Horner hopped onto the team radio to congratulate ‘Checo’ on a solid drive, Perez replied demanding that they ‘talk later’.
Horner subsequently addressed the team orders sent to the 32-year-old, which denied him the opportunity to fight for what would have been just his third race victory. While it was clearly a bitter pill to swallow at the time, the Red Bull boss claims that he came around quickly once the dust settled on an exciting contest.
“[Asking him to hold back] is always a bit tough, but Checo was on a two-stop and Max on a three,” he added. “We spoke about it in the briefing earlier that we might have to switch cars around because we don’t want to lose time on either of their races.
“It made no sense, particularly when Max on a tyre that gave him a two-second per lap advantage, to let the two drivers fight. At the point in time, when he’s leading the Grand Prix, he doesn’t see the overall picture. But he understood it very quickly.”