Defying Red Bull to chance it for the fastest lap point in Spain, Christian Horner says he’ll be having a word with Max Verstappen – although it probably won’t be a firm one.
Although Verstappen was cruising towards the victory in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix, some 20s up on Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, the Dutchman was one strike away from a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits.
He had already done so on three occasions with race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase informing him that he’d been shown the black-and-white flag. That did little, in fact nothing, to deter Verstappen from going for the fastest lap of the grand prix and the point that comes with it.
Although GP told him he “cannot afford” the risk and “don’t worry about it”, Verstappen ignored him with a “yeah, yeah” when GP later told him to “bring it home within the white lines now, thank you”.
Horner at least saw the funny side in their communication.
“He and his engineer they’ve got a relationship like an old married couple,” he said. “You could hear them talking over the radio, it’s almost like arguing, ‘which channel should we watch’.”
But on a serious note, Verstappen did open the door to potential late-race drama with Horner pointing out what could have been the consequences.
“Having had three strikes, the next one is a time penalty,” he said, “and it was if there was a Safety Car or something like that, that could have been extremely painful.
“So the engineers trying to manage Max to say, ‘Look, don’t take any risk, just bring it home, keep it in the lines’
“And Max, I think he wasn’t aware he was exceeding the limits. And so he just wanted that extra point for the fastest lap.”
The team boss says he’ll be having a word with his driver, although it probably won’t be a firm one.
“He’s in the car, he knows [what he can do],” he added to Sky Sports.
“Of course, we’ll talk about it and I think in a situation where there was more to lose than that we’d talk about it very firmly.
“All we can do is pass on the information. What he chooses to do with that information, he’s in control.”
Verstappen agrees he is the one who has to make the decisions, after all he’s the one in the car who knows what he still has in the bag in terms of speed.
“I kept it within the white lines, I just went a bit faster on the lap,” he replied when asked defying the team in the post-race press conference. “So I didn’t do anything wrong.
“They don’t know how much pace I have in the car, right, when they tell me this is the fastest lap, don’t bother, but I knew that I could do it.
“So yeah, I just had to keep it within the white lines but this is something I think we can laugh about already.
“I was laughing about it with Helmut after the race so I’m pretty sure that they’re quite happy.”
Verstappen has pulled 53 points clear of his team-mate Sergio Perez in the race for this year’s Drivers’ Championship title.