Christian Horner heaped praise on Max Verstappen, Red Bull’s first world champion for eight years, after the last-lap pass on Lewis Hamilton which won him the championship.rivals Mercedes have lodged two protests over the controversial conclusion to the race.
Horner said Verstappen had been subject to “immense pressure” during the season, “particularly for a young man.”
“He doesn’t show his emotion, but sure, he feels it,” Horner added. He praised “the way he’s handled the scrutiny, the pressure, the media spotlight on him, the whole narrative of ‘he’s a dangerous driver’ and so on.”
He recalled his words to Verstappen ahead of the race, which he started from pole position. “I just said to him this morning, just go out there and enjoy it. Whatever happens will happen. Just drive as you have all year and it’s that driving that’s put us into this position.”
However Verstappen lost the lead at the start and had to fight to regain the initiative from Hamilton.
“He’s had to convert it with that last lap pass on Lewis. So a wonderful way to win this world championship, and we’re incredibly proud of him.”
Horner said Verstappen’s victory was in no way guaranteed, as Hamilton led the majority of the race. “I think Mercedes had a quicker car than us today. We had a bad start, Max made the move in turn six, we felt a bit hard done by the stewards not to have got the place back but thereafter we just didn’t have the pace to go with Lewis.
“And I think that Checo did a wonderful job bringing Max back into play, being a brilliant team mate. At the end, the safety car, we needed something from the racing gods and we got it today.”
Regardless of any luck with the restart, however, Horner emphasised that Verstappen had earned the title. “It’s not just about today, it’s about the whole year,” said Horner. “I think Max has just been sensational all year. He’s driven his heart out and he’s done that again today.”
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
- The omission in the FIA’s Abu Dhabi report which may store up trouble for the future
- How F1’s greenest debutant defied his doubters and left as its most experienced racer
- Latifi condemns “extreme” social media abuse and death threats over Abu Dhabi GP crash
- Why Mercedes believe they would have won an appeal but still lost the title
- Verstappen’s title-winning last-lap pass on Hamilton was “very painful” due to cramp