Christian Horner, Red Bull Team Principal admitted Max Verstappen’s win of the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix was not a straightforward affair, revealing he was nervous from lights out.
Red Bull opted to start Verstappen on the medium tyres, while Aston Martin had Fernando Alonso starting on the hards, meaning the Spaniard might go longer on his tyres contrary to the Dutchman who would have to pit earlier, giving his rival a chance to overtake after both have pitted.
And indeed, the reigning Formula 1 Champion started struggling with graining on his mediums, but drove masterfully to keep a gap to Alonso, and waited until the rain came, and while Aston Martin erred by bolting slick tyres on their #14 car, before going to intermediates, Red Bull nailed their tyre choice, putting their leading driver directly on the green-banded tyres, securing the win.
“I was nervous from about the moment the red light came on,” Horner told Sky Sports F1 after the race. “When they pull the covers off and you see quite a few have gone on the hard tyre, you think OK, and with rain around if they can go far enough and the mediums can degrade.
“The first thing was convert the start and Max did that and then it was about building a bit of a gap and getting a Safety Car window to the cars behind and then try and hang it out and see what the weather does,” he added.
Horner admitted it was always special to win in Monaco, he said: “All the races have the same points but this one means that little bit more. It’s always so special to win here, everything is a bit unique here and the grid was completely nuts before the race. Big win, every driver wants this race on their CV.”
During the race, Verstappen was heard several times over the team radio, discussing options with his race engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase, as the Red Bull navigated their way through the unpredicted race in Monaco on Sunday.
It was not an easy win for Red Bull in Monaco
“It’s about the engineer working with the driver and trying to find the crossover,” Horner reflected. “It felt as though we’d gone a lap too long before going onto the inter and had Fernando picked the inter it would have been much tighter and put more pressure on our pit stop.
“Thankfully he [Alonso] took the slick tyre just as the rain was growing and at that point it was important Max didn’t take any risks and got it to the pits,” the Red Bull boss admitted.
“When you’re the lead car you can only lose, you have nothing to gain,” Horner went on. “You’ve just got to try and work with the conditions – we have spotters out there, you’re trying to look at the radar, looking at the crowd – and just trying to piece it together. The driver has the best knowledge of what’s going on on the circuit.
“There’s a lot of trust between Max and GP [Lambiase],” he pointed out. “That relationship between engineer and driver is so unique and there has to be a bond between the two that they can just speak openly and honestly and you’re managing the driver’s emotions, giving him the information and there has to be that trust between them.”
The Briton insisted the win in Monaco was far from easy; he explained: “We were on the ropes here. We knew coming here it was going to be our biggest challenge in the first half of the year here and the low-speed nature, we thought Ferrari would be the main opponent but Fernando has been on fire all weekend.
“The team is operating at such a great level. It was such a tough weekend for Checo, one for him to forget, but he can bounce back quickly next weekend in Barcelona,” Horner concluded.