Red Bull team principal Christian Horner took three swipes at Mercedes after Max Verstappen took a dominant record-extending win at the 2023 Brazilian GP – while Lewis Hamilton finished eighth and 63 seconds behind the Dutchman.
It was a nightmarish weekend for Mercedes as George Russell retired from running outside the top 10, and their sorry haul of four points makes it their fifth-lowest-scoring grand prix since Hamilton joined the team in 2013.
Mercedes admitted they got their setup wrong with just one free-practice session, after Hamilton was disqualified from the last sprint event in Austin for too much floor wear – something that didn’t go unnoticed by Horner.
“Generally with one practice to sort your car out, you can’t afford to take too much risk,” Horner told the press. “Otherwise, the penalty is that we saw in Austin.
“So it puts an added pressure to the engineering for that period of time, and then they’re tickling the car, filling up with fuel for the rest of the weekend.”
And when Horner was asked whether he had any sympathy for Mercedes, his answer was an emphatic ‘no’.
Horner reveals what sets Verstappen apart
While Mercedes toiled away behind, there was no doubt who’d take victory at Interlagos. Verstappen was in a strong position even before the end of the formation lap when second-placed Charles Leclerc crashed out, and never looked threatened from there.
Though Verstappen‘s winning margin of eight seconds to Lando Norris is far from his grandest in 2023, the Dutchman looked effortless out front.
“I think that everybody manages their pace differently in a race and Max has become so good at reading a race,” Horner added.
“He doesn’t panic if he sees them taking time out of him in the middle sector or whatever, because he’s looking at the long game. And I think he’s just got that inner confidence that he knows he knows where he is.
“I think 2019, it was during that period he really stepped it up, and 19/20 to a degree. I mean, Mercedes had a rocket ship in 2020, we were still able to win some races that year. And then obviously 2021 was massive.”