Max Verstappen’s victory in the United States Grand Prix feels particularly significant as it came at a traditionally strong Lewis Hamilton track, says Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
Hamilton had won five of of the eight previous races at Circuit of the Americas, only failing to finish on the podium once as he finished fourth for Mercedes when it was less competitive in 2013. While he was second on his last visit in 2019, that was enough for Hamilton to win a sixth championship, but Verstappen’s pole position and victory opened the gap between the two to 12 points.
“This is a big one because it has been such a stronghold of Lewis and Mercedes,” Horner said. “To get the pole was a landmark moment for us and then to convert it into a win even though we weren’t leading at the end of the first lap. So it was a great team performance because on Friday P1 [first practice] we were on the back foot and it looked like it would be a tough weekend, but the whole team worked very hard to turn it around.”
Verstappen jumped Hamilton with an early pit stop and led the rest of the race but had the Mercedes closing in rapidly in the final stint, at a time when Horner admits Red Bull didn’t feel he had the race under control.
“We were considering a three-stop and what that would look like and where it would put us at the end of the race, but you give away track position. So in the end we decided to stick with track position and save the tires, which allowed Lewis to close up quickly and then he was in the dirty air. Obviously. Max managed that incredibly well and there is a lot of pressure in a race like that.”
Despite the significance of the win, Horner is wary of overstating the advantage Verstappen has in the championship after Hamilton still picked up an extra point for the fastest lap.
“There are five races to go and there are still another 130 points on the table and we have only got a 12 point lead,” Horner said. “It’s great to have extended it here, because with 10 laps to go it looked like we might be leaving equal or two behind, so to have extended the lead is a great result and we have got some big races coming up.”