Christian Horner saw the São Paulo Grand Prix as a cat-and-mouse game between Max Verstappen and Lando Norris. The McLaren driver had a good race pace after the restart and was able to attack Verstappen, forcing Red Bull Racing to think smart about the tires and increasing the gap to Norris. Ultimately, Horner saw that his driver managed everything well. The team boss does think that McLaren can be a formidable opponent next season.
After the red flag, Norris had a new set of soft tires on his car. The original start saw the Brit jump from sixth to second position, so Horner was a little nervous before the restart and predicted a close battle. “Lando used his best set of tires at the start and that gave him a good chance against us,” says the team boss at Motorsport.com. ‘So I was relieved when Max kept the lead at the end of the first lap.’
On the seventh lap, Norris was actually able to attempt to attack Verstappen. The McLaren driver came closer and closer and in turn 4 Verstappen really had to defend. The young Briton’s attack was repulsed and from that moment on the pace had to be increased by Verstappen. ‘Then it becomes a cat-and-mouse game, because it’s mainly about tire management. You’re telling the driver to pay attention to the tires but at the same time build a lead, and the slipstream here is quite powerful.”
“But just like in the sprint race, Max managed it incredibly well and managed to build up a lead,” Horner continues. Verstappen managed to drive one and a half seconds faster than Norris in one lap and from that moment on the gap only increased. “We then stopped on the same lap as Lando, and we actually increased the lead through the pit stop to just over five seconds.” Both Verstappen’s in-lap and out-lap were a lot faster than Norris’s.
Horner: ‘McLaren will definitely be a competitor next year’
In recent races it has often been unclear who Red Bull’s biggest challenger is. McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari are often close together. ‘As long as we are at the top, it is irrelevant who among us is in the times tables.’ Horner is looking at next year with a slanted eye. “I would say McLaren is the most consistent team behind us at the moment. So they’ve clearly made good progress in the second half of the year. If they continue in the same vein, they will certainly be a competitor next year,” said the team boss.