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Christian Horner

Horner identifies 'decisive' moment that sealed Verstappen victory

Max Verstappen just about held to to halt Lando Norris's charge in the Spanish GP.

Verstappen win Spain
To news overview © XPBimages

Christian Horner has hailed the "decisive" moment Max Verstappen passed George Russell as the moment that helped him to win the Spanish Grand Prix.

The fast-starting Russell roared into the lead at Turn 1 from fourth on the grid as Verstappen got ahead of pole-sitter Lando Norris with Lewis Hamilton slotting into fourth. 

On Lap 3, with the aid of DRS, Verstappen sliced past Russell around the outside of Turn 1 to grab a lead he would then only lose through the pit-stop phases, with Norris going off-strategy into an attempt to have fresher tyres with which to attack. 

The McLaren quickly passed both Mercedes after his first stop, and narrowly emetged ahead of Russell after his final stop to set up an 18 lap sprint versus the Red Bull. 

Verstappen held on to win by 2.219s in the end from Norris as Hamilton completed the podium, with Horner feeling the pass on fourth-place finisher Russell was "crucial."

"Max drove a brilliant race and I think strategically we got into a stride," Horner told Sky Sports F1. 

"We went for an optimum race time and it paid off - and we knew that McLaren would come back with the overlap on the tyre at the end of the race, but we just had enough in hand. 

"It was so decisive and the first lap was crucial, and the pass on George was even more important. He needed to put the move on George quickly, and then get the tyres under control - and I can't express how difficult that is.

"Because on one hand, you're telling the driver to: 'cruise and look after the tyres', but obviously he went for it and got the pass done and then executed a perfect race.

"He did it the hard way, around the outside, it was close, hard and fair racing between the two of them, and we were relieved to get it done. It was crucial.

"He is so decisive, he just doesn't mess about and when he is coming up to traffic, he is so decisive, and I think that is one of his key qualities. He is going to go for it - and the other drivers know that."

Norris rejoined from his Lap 48 pit-stop nine seconds behind Verstappen and whittled that gap down to the shade over two seconds by the flag over the remaining laps, but could not close enough, with Verstappen turning the engine up to defend. 

Reflecting on the late chase, Horner felt confident that Red Bull always had "enough" to deal with the charging McLaren.

"It is fine margins, and I think the two of them were circa 18 seconds [17.790s] ahead of the rest of the field," he said.

"But Lando has the longevity, they went for a slightly different strategy but in the end, we got the job done. 

"We won the race and took maximum points. 

"There was only one corner we could see Lando was quicker, which was in Turn 1, and the rest, max had it covered, so it was always going to get closer because of that tyre offset and the pit-stops. 

"But we always felt confident that with the tools we had, we had enough in hand."

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