Verstappen’s cool under pressure kept title hopes alive - Horner

Andy Hone/Motorsport Images

Verstappen’s cool under pressure kept title hopes alive - Horner

Formula 1

Verstappen’s cool under pressure kept title hopes alive - Horner

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Max Verstappen’s ability to deliver strong results during uncompetitive weekends or after bad luck for Red Bull is the reason he won the 2021 drivers’ championship, according to his team principal, Christian Horner.

Lewis Hamilton looked set to take the title in Abu Dhabi after leading the majority of the race but Verstappen was able to take advantage of a controversial end to overtake his rival on the final lap. That ended a run of three straight victories for Hamilton where Verstappen finished second each time, and Horner says the way he still delivered when the Red Bull wasn’t the quickest car proved crucial.

“It’s been an incredible year and when you look back at the season as a whole, 22 races — I think the biggest season Formula 1 has ever had — from the first race in Bahrain it has been so competitive,” Horner said. “There’s been on average probably 0.1, 0.2s between the two drivers throughout the season.

“I think the way that Max has driven throughout the year, what’s really stood out for me is in moments of adversity where he’s just kept his head down he’s kept believing, he’s kept pushing, he’s kept driving the team forward and we’ve known every time he’s got in the car he’s given it 110%.

“That lifts everybody around them. Particularly in the second half of the year when we didn’t have the fastest package, he kept us in this championship — he kept fighting, he kept believing. It’s just been the most unbelievable year, we’re incredibly proud of everything he’s done this year and totally deserving of this world championship.”

Horner says it shouldn’t be overlooked how well Verstappen performed under pressure, as 2021 was the first season the 24-year-old was in a title fight.

“I think we’ve just given him a better car and he’s made great use of it. He’s finished every race either first or second, bar one where he had half his car missing in Budapest. The statistics talk for themselves — the amount of laps that he’s led, the pole positions, the race victories — he’s been outstanding.

“So few mistakes under massive pressure. I think that what you forget is the pressure that has been building and building through this championship, and the way as a young man that he’s dealt with and coped with that has been inspirational.

“There’s been some big moments. It was important to get those victories, to get the run of results, and there were moments like Azerbaijan that we had to come back from, and it was important to come back strong. Max did that. Silverstone was a key moment and again how you come back from that. For me the latter part of the championship — particularly Austin (pictured, top) where we were certainly the underdog that day but he delivered a victory — that was truly outstanding.”

 

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