Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says it is important to his team that Max Verstappen wins the championship in a fair and clean manner at this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Verstappen was handed two separate time penalties for incidents involving Lewis Hamilton in Saudi Arabia on Sunday. However, Verstappen still finished second to his title rival, ensuring they go into the decider level on points. Verstappen is ahead in the tiebreaker with more race victories, which means he will be world champion if both drivers retire. But, when asked if he cares how Verstappen wins the title, Horner replied: “Yes, of course we do.
“You want to win it on the track, not in the stewards’ room, not in the gravel trap. It’s been a tough fight all through the year. There’s been some fantastic racing between these two drivers and I hope that it’s a fair and clean race in Abu Dhabi.”
Horner also says the mindset from Red Bull is simply that it has to beat Hamilton in a straight shootout, and takes heart from the performance level Verstappen showed in Saudi Arabia having expected Mercedes to have a bigger advantage.
“I think it’s winner takes all, isn’t it? Whoever finishes ahead is the world champion. Let’s see. We’ve got one shot at it. We’ve got to try and beat Lewis one more time this year. The performance is with them at the moment; they’ve won three races on the bounce and they’re going to be very competitive in Abu Dhabi, I think, with the new layout.
“We expected them to have a bigger advantage on us (in Jeddah) and we’ve fought hard, we’ve attacked the grand prix. I think Max has been outstanding around here all weekend.”
Despite Verstappen’s penalties, Horner believes Hamilton was lucky to come away with a victory in the last race, and says it gives the team added motivation to try and take the title in the final round having not been in with a shot since 2013.
“We’re a team that goes for it. We’re going to Abu Dhabi equal on points but leading by virtue of the number of wins. Who would have thought at the beginning of the year? If you had given us this chance of one shot to win this championship in Abu Dhabi at the last race after 21 races of intense battle with Mercedes, I think we’d have all as a team absolutely bitten your arm off for that.
“I think you guys probably would have as well based on the dominance that we’ve seen in the last seven years. It’s the first time since we were last there in 2012 and 2010 with Sebastian that rival teams have gone into the final race fighting for the drivers’ world championship.
“There will be no problem in raising morale going into this final weekend. We’ve actually come out of it with a second place. We managed to get ourselves into a lead, lead a large percentage of the race once again but Lady Luck is shining on Lewis at the moment. (Esteban) Ocon drove over his front wing at the start, he hung on there, he drove up the back of Max. He’s ridden his luck.”