Verstappen patience lauded after Hamilton ‘missile’
By Ian Parkes
Thursday 6th April, 2023 - 2:00am
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has praised Max Verstappen for the patience he displayed during Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix after being forced to avoid Lewis Hamilton’s “missile” on the opening lap.
By his own admission, Verstappen declared his start from pole position ahead of the 58-lap race as “terrible” after failing to “get off the line well”.
That left the reigning F1 champion vulnerable to an attack into Turn 1 from Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell, who had started alongside the Dutch driver on the front row.
Slow out of the exit, Verstappen finally gained traction through the sweeping Turn 2 curve only to come under attack from his main F1 rival into Turn 3.
Hamilton and Verstappen have offered differing views on the manoeuvre that culminated in the RB19 being forced wide off track in order to avoid a collision with his long-time nemesis.
In the past, Verstappen may well have held his line, but on this occasion, Horner felt he showed restraint, knowing that despite Hamilton taking second place, he had the pace in his car to reclaim the lead.
“The two Mercedes were fast starting,” said Horner. “They were both very aggressive on the first lap, (with) Max showing great patience not to get embroiled.
“George got a blinder, and he just sent it down into the first corner so Max got out of that, and by getting out of it to allow him through, that then compromised him through T2.
“And then Fernando (Alonso) and Lewis get a run on him, and Lewis sends a missile down into T3.
“Again, I thought he showed great patience to get out of the way. It was hard racing between the two of them.”
Verstappen makes “short work” of Hamilton
Russell then led a Mercedes one-two through the opening laps, albeit coming under pressure from Hamilton who, in turn, was being pressed by Verstappen.
It was not until Alex Albon lost the rear of his Williams at Turn 7 on lap eight did the situation change, with Russell thinking quickly on his feet to take on fresh tyres after the safety car was deployed.
It was not until almost three minutes later that the race was red-flagged, allowing Hamilton and Verstappen a free pit stop.
Once the racing resumed, Verstappen did not waste too much time dismissing Hamilton with a move under DRS which left Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff describing the pace of the Red Bull as “mind-boggling”.
“It was quite a fight between the three of them at the front,” added Horner on the battle witnessed for the first few laps.
“It sounded like George wasn’t happy about being pushed by Lewis, who in turn was being pushed hard by Max.
“Then they started having a go at each other; then they (Mercedes) pitted George, and then the red flag came out.
“It was then just a straight fight between Max and Lewis, and he (Verstappen) made very short work of that.
“Then it was a question of controlling the race from that point onwards.”
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