Christian Horner on ‘very tough’ Red Bull year despite stats suggesting otherwise

Oliver Harden
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner at the Japanese Grand Prix. Suzuka, October 2022.

Red Bull's Christian Horner at the Japanese Grand Prix. Suzuka, October 2022.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Max Verstappen’s performances in the first half of the 2022 Formula 1 season were vital to his second successive championship triumph.

Verstappen was 46 points adrift of runaway championship leader Charles Leclerc after retiring from two of the opening three races of 2022, but found himself leading the standings after round six in Spain as Ferrari’s reliability issues rose to the surface.

He would ultimately set a new record with 15 victories across the season, winning from as low as 10th and 14th on the grid in Hungary and Belgium respectively.

Those wins came in the midst of a run of nine victories in the final 11 races as Verstappen secured his second title at Suzuka with four rounds to spare.

With Red Bull starting 2022 with an overweight and unreliable car, however, Horner has dismissed suggestions that their championship triumphs were easy.

And in an interview released by Red Bull, he has showered praise on Verstappen’s displays in the opening phase of the season as the Dutchman won at Jeddah, Imola, Miami, Barcelona, Baku and Montreal.

“It was a very tough year,” he said.

“When you look at the statistics it looks like we totally dominated and, in the first half of the season, Ferrari had their chances. They had probably a quicker package.

“But Max was outstanding throughout the year, particularly in that first half.”

Recently asked to pinpoint his personal peak of the season by Dutch publication De Limburger, Verstappen drew attention to his victory from P14 in Belgium in August.

“In terms of racing, it was winning at Spa from the midfield,” he said.

“It was really great how everything came together for us there. Our car was perfect. Winning the world title [in Japan] was of course the highlight.”

Max Verstappen’s recovery from slow start was assisted by Ferrari, but then he and Red Bull took flight

Verstappen’s turning of a 46-point deficit to Leclerc after Australia into a six-point lead just three races later was as much Ferrari‘s own making as Red Bull’s doing, but looking back the potential for a dominant season was always there.

Until round seven in Monaco, Verstappen had won every race he finished in 2022, underlining the potency of the combination between the reigning World Champion and the RB18.

As Ferrari’s challenge faded away it was then that Verstappen and Red Bull truly took flight and his victories at the Hungaroring and Spa – as well as his title-clinching afternoon at Suzuka where he won a 28-lap race by 27 seconds – will enter Formula 1 folklore.

Verstappen has been quoted as saying that he first knew he was going to win the title after Leclerc crashed out of the lead at Paul Ricard in July, but it seemed quite inevitable far sooner than that.

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