Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has jokingly suggested that Nicholas Latifi has earned a “lifetime supply of Red Bull,” following Max Verstappen winning the 2021 F1 Drivers’ Championship in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
The Canadian crashed late on in the season finale, bringing out the safety car. Red Bull were thus able to pit Verstappen onto fresh soft tyres, before the Dutchman passed Sir Lewis Hamilton on the final lap to take the title.
Before the Williams driver’s crash, Hamilton looked as though he was cruising towards his record-breaking eighth title, making Horner extremely grateful for the Safety Car.
Speaking after the controversial race, Horner told Channel 4: “He’ll be getting a lifetime supply of Red Bull, for sure!”
The Red Bull boss had also extended this debt of gratitude to Vitaly Petrov, who held Fernando Alonso behind in 2010, facilitating championship success that night in Abu Dhabi to Sebastian Vettel – the first of four titles for the German.
Horner conceded during the race that Red Bull needed a “miracle”, with Verstappen simply struggling to find an answer to Mercedes’ astonishing pace.
“So yeah, we needed a bit of luck,” said the Red Bull boss.
“We felt that we’ve had bad luck earlier in the year at Silverstone and Budapest, [it’s] gone against us. Azerbaijan as well with Max having a tyre blowout.”
After all of this misfortune, however, Horner was relieved the Safety Car played into Red Bull’s hands in Abu Dhabi.
“We felt, finally, the final roll of the dice, we got that bit of luck with a Safety Car, and Max made it work!”
Up until the dramatic final lap, Red Bull had struggled to find any joy in the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with a lap one incident with Hamilton and the Briton’s phenomenal pace working against the Milton Keynes-based team.
“Well, I don’t think I was sitting back enjoying it!” Horner said. “I think Mercedes had a quicker car than us today, though.”
Horner was also immensely proud of the efforts of Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez, who held Hamilton up and gave Verstappen another go at the Brit.
“Checo [Perez] did a wonderful job bringing Max back into play, being a brilliant teammate,” said the enthused Horner.
“And then, at the end there, the Safety Car, we needed something from the racing gods, and we got it today.
“I think, the thing is, it’s not just about today, it’s about the whole year, and I think Max has just been sensational all year. He’s driven his heart out and he’s done that again today.”
Mercedes claimed their eighth Constructors’ title in Abu Dhabi, but are lodging an appeal into the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in a bid to secure Hamilton the 2021 Drivers’ Championship.