Red Bull team principal Christian Horner and reigning F1 world champion Max Verstappen have picked out key moments that nearly cost the Dutchman his maiden world title in 2021.
Verstappen beat Mercedes’ Sir Lewis Hamilton by just eight points to claim the championship, passing the Briton on the final lap to dramatically take the title in Abu Dhabi.
Horner believes that Verstappen would have wrapped up the championship earlier had it not been for some huge moments of misfortune for the 24-year-old throughout the year.
He picked out the Azerbaijan and British Grand Prix as key races that could have swung the title away from Verstappen.
A late puncture cruelly denied Verstappen victory in Baku, while a 51G crash following contact with Hamilton at Silverstone put the Dutchman out of the race.
“There have been some big moments. It was important to get those victories, the run of results [France and double-header in Austria]. Then there were moments like Azerbaijan we had to come back from,” Horner said.
Crucially, following Verstappen’s Baku retirement, Hamilton forgot to return his brakes back to their race setting and sailed off the circuit in Azerbaijan, allowing Sergio Perez to take his second victory in Formula 1. This mitigated the damage done by Verstappen’s blowout, but Horner affirms that it was vital for Verstappen to mentally bounce back from the setback.
“It was important to come back strong, and Max did that, and then Silverstone was a key moment, and again how he came back from that.”
Verstappen agreed with his team boss, insisting that the championship would not have needed to go to the final round had it not been for these moments of misfortune.
“Same as Christian. Headbutting the tyre wall in Silverstone wasn’t that great. These were key moments otherwise it would have been decided a lot earlier,” said Verstappen.
On the flipside, both Verstappen and Horner are delighted by the latter stages of the year where the team pulled some excellent results out of the bag.
“Especially towards the end of the season, getting a few wins where we didn’t expect it, or a pole position, or even a fastest lap for an extra point. These things actually do matter nowadays when you have a championship fight as we had.”
“For me, in the latter part of the championship, particularly Austin, where we were certainly the underdog on that day, he delivered a victory that was truly outstanding,” added Horner.
Verstappen won 10 races in 2021, claiming 18 podiums in the process. There were just four races in which the Dutchman failed to finish either first or second.