Christian Horner thinks the ride height that teams needed to use in the Belgian Grand Prix played a big part in Red Bull’s dominance at Spa-Francorchamps.
Max Verstappen was quickest throughout the weekend, set the fastest lap of qualifying and climbed through from a 14th place grid position to win with ease on Sunday. Horner says the fact that teams needed to raise their ride height to counteract bottoming through Eau Rouge – especially with a new technical directive addressing plank wear – appeared to suit Red Bull far more than any other team.
“On the face of it I’d probably have to thank Toto for the TD!” Horner joked. “In all seriousness, I think this circuit has played to our strengths. We have a very efficient car, we’ve found a very good setup and Max has just been in phenomenal form from the very first lap in first practice.
“Obviously, strategically we chose to take the penalty here and 14th became 13th technically as the starting point with everybody else. But of course Max still had to navigate his way through the pack and he did that very efficiently over the first couple of laps, so he hit the front far quicker than we could have ever expected and the soft tire seemed to work for him as well in that stint.
“Thereafter the pace we had with Max and Checo (Perez) was enough that he got past Carlos [Sainz] and brought home one of the most dominant performances that we’ve had as a team since either 2010 or 2013. It’s right up there with that period and I don’t think we’ve ever won a race starting 14th on the grid.
“So, as I said, a phenomenal performance and a lot of credit has to go to the people behind the scenes, because what you see here is just the end product and the drivers having to optimize that to the best, but behind the scenes all the unsung heroes back in Milton Keynes have done a tremendous job with this car and obviously power unit.
“A lot was made and a lot of expectation was put on that TD, so perhaps it’s hurt others more than it’s hurt ourselves. So we haven’t really changed the way we operate the car. Obviously, grounding here has always been an issue because of Eau Rouge, but that’s not unique to us that’s the same for every team.
“I think we have seen that already this year, if we run a higher ride height our philosophy is probably slightly different to some of the others. Maybe we will get a TD for the next race that we need to run lower!”
And Horner says the advantage Red Bull and Verstappen enjoyed was highlighted even more clearly by the fact Charles Leclerc fell over half a second shy when trying to set the fastest lap at the end of the race.
“If anything, Carlos looked the quicker of the two drivers from what I could see this weekend. Charles was unlucky with the tear-off that went into his brake duct and put him out of sequence, but they didn’t have the raw pace, it looked like.
“So you can understand them going for that one point, but I think they had a slow stop that then put them behind Fernando [Alonso], which probably compromised them, but it demonstrated the pace, that even with the DRS up the hill and a soft set of tires on and 30 kilos less fuel than Max had, that Max’s lap still stood as the fastest from his first lap on the final stint.”