Christian Horner has full praise on the current sporting rivalry between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, as he reflects on the happenings in triple header.
Certainly, the 2021 F1 season is turning out to be a fierce tussle between Red Bull’s Verstappen and Mercedes’ Hamilton. Only five points separates the two, as we head into the closing stages, where we have already seen plenty between the two.
If Silverstone was a teaser, Monza only made it much more personal, with no inch given by either to each other. It does give the vibes of being one of the greatest rivalries, one more addition to Hamilton’s long list since his F1 debut more than 10 years ago.
The fierceness or bickering aside, Horner sees it as a good thing for F1, where not only there is the Hamilton and Verstappen show on display, on the constructors’ side, Red Bull is certainly gunning against Mercedes, to break their dominance.
“We’re witnessing one of the great sporting rivalries, not just within Formula 1, but within the sporting world for a generation. It’s intense and the stakes are high,” wrote Horner in his column. “It’s hugely competitive and nothing is being given up without a fight by either side. Also from our perspective, it’s hugely enjoyable to be back in a competitive position fighting for a world championship.
“After all, when was the last time a Mercedes car was not leading the championship at this stage of the year?,” questioned Horner, as he had high praise for Verstappen and the team to bounce back after summer break and retake the points lead. Even though they missed scoring at Monza, with Mercedes not scoring on Hamilton side, it was a breather.
“Since the summer break, Max has been in great form,” wrote Horner. “His pole lap at Spa, in difficult conditions, was phenomenal and gained us the points there. His performance under immense pressure in Holland and all the expectations placed on his shoulders, was incredible. And in Monza, the way we worked as a team to get third place on the grid in qualifying and his drive in the sprint qualifying, which got him second place that in turn became pole for the race, all while securing vital championship points, was very impressive.”
Elaborating more on the Monza’s main race, Horner noted of the technical directive, which played its part in the slow stop. That eventually brought Verstappen close to Hamilton, who also had a slow stop. On the clumsy incident, the Red Bull F1 chief – as usual – still thinks it to be a racing incident, but has since accepted the stewards’ verdict.
“For the race itself, we knew McLaren would be a big opponent in Italy because their cars are well-suited to that venue,” wrote Horner. “Daniel Ricciardo made a good start and Max pushed him as hard as he could, but we couldn’t overtake. Then there was a rare human error in our pit stop, as a result of the new Technical Directive but nonetheless something we need to learn from.
“That slow stop put Max out of synch from where he should’ve been on track. Mercedes compounded that situation as they faltered with their own stop on Hamilton’s car, which meant both drivers were neck and neck. Both drivers knew they needed to be ahead because of the difficulty to overtake. Max was keen to seize the momentum andLewis was eager to retain track position. It was an awkward shunt, but both drivers were instantly able to confirm they were ok.
“With Lewis trying to reverse and get back in the race, even the medical car didn’t see the need to deploy. I’m grateful the halo did its job. I think even the most vocal of doubters have now changed their mind about it. I still share the same belief today – both played a part in it and it is difficult to apportion blame to one side more than the other. If the FIA wanted to make a statement, they could’ve imposed the same penalty on both drivers but the fault was deemed to be more on Max’s side and, because he didn’t finish the race, the only option was to give him a grid penalty, which we accept,” summed up Horner.
Here’s Lewis Hamilton on shock plus more on wheel-to-wheel racing
Here’s Mercedes on their strategy, Red Bull on pit stop
Here’s Valtteri Bottas on getting stuck behind Sergio Perez
Here’s Toto Wolff on his tactical foul comment
Here’s Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris defending Red Bull/Mercedes
Here’s Toto Wolff/Lewis Hamilton and Christian Horner/Max Verstappen’s views