Verstappen extended his lead at the top of the F1 drivers’ championship by charging to victory at Paul Ricard on Sunday, passing Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton for the lead on the penultimate lap.
Verstappen was joined on the podium by team-mate Sergio Perez, whose third-place finish helped Red Bull also pull further clear of Mercedes in the constructors’ standings. The gap stands at 37 points ahead of this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix.
The result came after an intense period for Red Bull that had seen it face scrutiny over its rear wing design – dubbed a ‘flexi-wing’ – and for its use of tyre pressures after a failure for Verstappen in Baku.
New clampdowns were enforced by the FIA in both areas for the French Grand Prix weekend, but it did not appear to hinder Red Bull’s performance as it took pole, the fastest lap and the race win.
Asked how much of a relief it was to win the race despite the technical directives from the FIA, Horner felt it had proved Red Bull’s critics wrong.
“A lot of comments have been made in the last few weeks,” Horner said following Sunday’s race at Paul Ricard.
“We’ve had accusations made. But we’ve complied with the rules and the way that we’ve reacted I think shows the strength and depth, that our performance isn’t based on rear wing flexibility.
“[At] all times we’ve always followed the prescriptions from Pirelli, and obviously the increase in tyre pressure this weekend was challenging for all the teams.
“But again, the engineering team have done a great job in optimising the car around it.”
Masashi Yamamoto, General Manager, Honda Motorsport, and Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, in Parc Ferme
Photo by: FIA Pool
Horner had claimed in the lead-up to Sunday’s race that Red Bull could beat Mercedes “anywhere” if it could do so at Paul Ricard, the track having been a stronghold for the German marque in recent years.
Horner said the performance in the race to overturn Mercedes’ traditional advantage was “testament to how hard the team has worked” in the past 12 months.
“Let’s not forget, 60% of the car is a carryover,” Horner said.
“It’s the same chassis that they were winning all those races [with] last year, so I think that the team has just done a phenomenal job.
“We’ve just got to keep that momentum going, because Mercedes are such a strong team. It’s only a matter of time before they bounce back, but we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing.”