Verstappen’s Early Season Performances Kept Red Bull in Touch with Ferrari – Horner

Christian Horner says Max Verstappen kept Oracle Red Bull Racing in contention at the beginning of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season despite Scuderia Ferrari beginning the year with the quicker car.

Ferrari won two of the opening three races of the year in Bahrain and Australia, with Verstappen retiring from those two races following mechanical problems.  However, the Dutchman was able to win the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after a great battle with Charles Leclerc, and he was always the thorn in Ferrari’s side from there on.

Horner, the Team Principal at Red Bull, believes that Verstappen’s performances prevented Ferrari from running away at the front of the championship early on, and it allowed the team to consolidate their own position and then go on full-attack, with the Dutchman grabbing any opportunity that presented itself to him with both hands.

“I think Max, after winning that first world championship last year — which was like a heavyweight bout from the first race to the last race — again has made another step forward as a driver,” Horner is quoted as saying by Racer.com.

“He’s driven with such maturity, with such composure, and he’s delivered some massive wins under huge pressure.

“It’s only when you look back at the season, when you think of some of the races like Saudi or Miami or Montreal, there’s been some massive moments there. Likewise with Checo (Sergio Pérez) for example in Singapore… so it’s been an outstanding year.

“We didn’t have the quickest car at the beginning of the year and (Verstappen) very much kept us in contention and just kept pushing and drove with phenomenal precision and pace. Whenever there was an opportunity there to take he grabbed it with both hands.”

Horner admitted the year started on the back foot with a double retirement in the Bahrain Grand Prix, but he believes a psychological boost came in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix when Verstappen and Sergio Pérez secured a one-two finish in Ferrari’s home event.

“I think (Ferrari) had a faster car than us in the early part of the season and I think we were able to stay in touch, and that was very important,” Horner added.  “Our championship was 21 races, because we missed the first one by having a double DNF, but we had to stick with them.

“For me, one of the crucial weekends was Imola with the sprint race and then the victory, and to win both those races, to achieve the one-two finish and to beat Ferrari on their home ground, I think was psychologically a big thing for us as a team, and potentially for them as well.

“Then as we developed the car and we improved the car and we lost a little bit of weight, then the speed came.”