Christian Horner says overcoming the might of Mercedes made Max Verstappen’s title victory the “biggest championship” the team have won.
Verstappen took victory in Abu Dhabi after overtaking Lewis Hamilton on the final lap of the season, and the Dutchman was in Paris on Thursday night to officially pick up the Drivers’ Championship trophy.
Given the dominance of Mercedes in the turbo hybrid era, Horner said managing to leapfrog Hamilton makes it “right up there” in the team’s biggest achievements, having been the class of the field while Sebastian Vettel was winning his titles as a Red Bull driver.
“Mercedes are such a quality team and they’ve got stronger and stronger over the years,” Horner said to Sky F1.
“And that’s what made this so intense, on-track, off-track, between the drivers, the pit crews, the strategy, the development, between Toto and I.
“And because of the quality of the opposition that we’ve had, that’s what makes this one so special, we’ve just never given up from the first race, Max has driven his heart out this year.
“For sure it’s right up there, this is probably the biggest championship that we’ve won.”
— Red Bull Racing Honda (@redbullracing) December 16, 2021
Former Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Bourdais was not complimentary about the way Sergio Perez went about trying to hold Hamilton up during the race, but the team’s strategy for him paid off as the Mexican did all he could to keep the Mercedes behind – and the team principal hailed his influence on Sunday.
“Checo has been amazing,” Horner smiled. “We talked about it before the race, we talked about it, how can he help Max?
“And the way he backed Lewis up [costing him around 7 seconds] he brought Max into play.
“They had a quicker car than us in Abu Dhabi, it was just strategy that we were able to make play.
“And all weekend, you saw his tow [in qualifying], you saw it in Monza, he’s done such a great job for this team, and again he’s a big part of this victory.”
Tempers have often flared between Horner and Toto Wolff all year round, but they made up with a handshake in the pre-race press conference in Abu Dhabi, and while they are still different characters, the Red Bull team boss said the respect is there between the two.
“It’s been high stakes this year, it has been an intense competition and the teams have gone head to head,” he said.
“Toto and I have had our moments, but full respect, it feels like the right result that the championships were split and we’ll come back and we’ll try and do it all again next year.”