Christian Horner supported the controversial late red flag that ended the 2023 Australian Grand Prix and handed race victory to Red Bull‘s Max Verstappen.
After an incident-packed race, it looked as if Verstappen would cruise to victory but two red flags in the last three laps threw the grand prix into chaos.
However, the last of those meant there weren’t enough laps to get competitive running in and Verstappen rolled across the line after one lap behind the safety car.
“It was the right thing to red flag it, there was a lot of debris on the track,” Horner told the media. “Problem was it was only two laps to the end of the race, and so you’re always gonna get winners and losers out there.”
“You can understand the rationale between wanting to finish under racing conditions, rather than cruising behind the safety car for three laps.
“They might’ve been able to clear the circuit and get it going, I don’t know, But like all these things, there’s always something to learn.”
Verstappen finally gets it right
Including an early red flag, Verstappen had two poor starts in the grand prix, after he was jumped by both Mercedes drivers on the first lap and then failed to challenge Lewis Hamilton at the first restart.
Though it didn’t matter in the end, thanks to the safety blanket of the second red flag, Verstappen did finally get it right and led into the first corner.
“It was just a question of go out there and do the best start,” Horner said. “We’d had two pretty average start, in the previous two attempts, but the third one, he nailed and then all chaos ensued behind him.
“Thankfully we weren’t part of that and then obviously, the red flag came out, and then the race was never gonna get restarted after that with a few guys sustaining quite a bit of damage, at the end there.”
Not everyone was a fan of the stewards’ decisions. Carlos Sainz was furious when he earned a five-second penalty from the first red-flag restart that dropped him from fourth to twelfth, and George Russell also criticised the decision.
Meanwhile, Verstappen felt he’d been raced too hard by Hamilton, though many fans felt the Brit was racing straight out of the Dutchman’s rulebook.