F1: Hamilton v Verstappen in numbers
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There was little love lost between Christian Horner and Damon Hill as they clashed over their assessments of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The Red Bull team principal was speaking live on Sky Sports F1 shortly after the conclusion of one of the most dramatic races in recent memory and once again sparred verbally with Formula One legend Hill.
Emotions will have been running high in the paddock after a race which was red-flagged twice and saw title contenders Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen collide.
Red Bull were left smarting after their driver was slapped with a five-second time penalty that they deemed unfair, while the Mercedes racer went on to win with Verstappen also struggling with his tyres late on.
So Horner would not have been in the best of moods when he appeared for the interview with Sky, and found himself face-to-face with a man he had publicly accused of bias in the build-up to the race.
Horner had accused Damon Hill of lacking impartiality in the title race, adding: “He’s not a big fan of Max from what I can see.”
And the Red Bull chief seemed ready for a verbal battle with the 1996 world champion by quickly challenging what he was saying as he tried to ask questions of Horner.
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“It’s not possible to say what if, there were so many variables in that race. The pace we were looking at that Max had in the first section going that way… Inevitably it was the tyres that did it for you,” Hill said, before asking: “Whatever had happened, do you think Lewis would’ve got you anyway?”
Horner replied: “I think as you well know Damon, the first sector is down to the driver, the next two sectors are engine dominated. So anybody can drive easy down the straight bits.
“What Max was able to do through the demands of sector one was truly impressive. It was the only chance of staying ahead if you look at the difference in performance around the lap.
“It was remarkable what he was able to do.”
Hill admitted Verstappen had been “driving brilliantly”, adding: “I’m not taking anything away from it!”
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But he then added: “But your car set-up, it looked like to me you came in with a higher downforce set-up so you were able to get it on pole position. You were thinking in terms of track position. You didn’t get pole position…”
Horner was quick to jump in and correct the pundit, replying: “No we were actually on lower downforce. If you look at the rear wing it was one of the lower end of the downforce, not on the higher end of it.
“Obviously we were going for an optimum set-up for the race.
“It’s a shame with [qualifying] yesterday not to finish the lap but Max was able to re-address that when he did manage to get the lead. Mercedes had an amazing car today and I think the reality was they were just that much quicker.”
It wasn’t the only post-race interview in which Horner showed his annoyance at how the race had gone.
He also lamented the penalty that was handed to Verstappen, which they felt had punished him double as he had given the place back to Hamilton after an illegal overtake.
“I think we feel hard done by with the five-second penalty and in the incident where Lewis has driven up the back of Max,” he said.
“They’ll go and explain in front of the stewards, but Max was trying to give the place up. We informed race control we were going to give the place up.
“He lifted off, I think you can hear Lewis has lifted off. I don’t know if he was messing around for the DRS line there.
“It was clear that we were giving the place up. We’d informed race control. That was what we were going to do.
“There’d been a debate about it. Michael was adamant that you have a choice or it’s going to the stewards. At that point you know it’s going to be a penalty. So we said, ‘OK we’ll give the place up.’ We informed race control.”
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