Christian Horner admits that the Qatar Grand Prix was a “big day” in terms of the championship.
The morning of the race did not begin in ideal fashion for Red Bull, with Max Verstappen being handed a five-place grid penalty after failing to slow sufficiently for double waved yellow flags at the end of qualifying. This demoted the Dutchman from second to seventh.
However, Verstappen was able to work his way back up to second in the Grand Prix, and also claimed an extra point for fastest lap. Title rival Lewis Hamilton won the race, meaning that Verstappen’s lead over Hamilton in the Drivers’ standings is now down to just eight points.
Horner acknowledges that the outcome of the event in Qatar could be significant in the title fight, though is aware that almost every moment is crucial now, with just two races remaining in the 2021 Formula 1 season.
“It was a big day,” Horner told Sky Sports F1 when asked how pivotal the day had been in the championship.
“They’re all big days at the moment. We’re sort of back to where we were in Austin, [we’ve] just been around the world to do it points-wise.”
Verstappen’s recovery drive
Verstappen’s championship lead may have been reduced at the Losail International Circuit but Horner thinks that the Dutchman did a fantastic job, particularly given the speed of the Mercedes car.
“I think Max’s recovery today [and] his first lap was stunning,” the Team Principal explained.
“Mercedes had a quicker car than us with Lewis today, but we were able to come back at them a little bit in the second and third stints.
“The car started to come alive. Max’s first few corners were sensational.”
Whilst Verstappen could not catch Hamilton in the lead, Horner was encouraged by how the Red Bull could still match their rivals’ pace.
“There’s just one corner here that they [Mercedes] were quicker,” Horner said. “It’s Turn 6. Two tenths every lap, and it’s a pretty straightforward corner, so we’ve got a bit of homework to understand why we lost time in that corner.
“But [our] straight-line speed was competitive. It was pretty much line-on-line, so that was good to see.
“I think that the fact that Max was able to get the fastest lap before bolting on that set of Soft [tyres] was also really encouraging.”