Red Bull learned lessons of a year ago to crack Interlagos
By Ian Parkes
Monday 6th November, 2023 - 12:33am
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner claims lessons were learned from last year’s São Paulo Grand Prix that have stood Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez in good stead for this weekend’s event.
Following a run of nine consecutive victories in the lead-up to last year’s race – eight for Verstappen – Red Bull endured one a rare off weekend in São Paulo.
Verstappen and Perez were fourth and fifth in the sprint respectively, before sliding to sixth and seventh in the grand prix, and that after starting third and fourth on the grid.
On this occasion, after claiming pole position for the grand prix on Friday evening, Verstappen then won the sprint from second on the grid, with Perez showing good pace to finish third.
Explaining the turnaround from a year ago, Horner said: “Last year we got the setup wrong here, and you have such a short window with the one practice session. It was quite costly.
“So we used the lessons from last year, applied them here, and it was great to win another sprint race, our fifth sprint victory of the year.”
Horner has conceded to feeling a little apprehensive coming into the weekend, knowing Interlagos “doesn’t play to our strengths” as there are “not a lot of high-speed corners”.
Horner is now naturally confident Verstappen will convert his pole into what would be a record-extending 17th victory of his extraordinary season.
“It is quite a tricky track but I think we found a good setup as you’ve saw, and that bodes well, hopefully, for the race tomorrow,” added Horner.
“You’ve now got a reasonable amount of data to look at, in terms of what the relative performance and tyre wear were on the different cars.
“But as we saw in Qatar, from the Saturday race to the Sunday race, Sunday was a lot closer between ourselves and Mercedes.”
McLaren, in the form of Lando Norris in particular, has shown considerable pace across the weekend to date.
The Briton started from pole for the sprint, only to fail to cover off Verstappen at the start, with the Dutch driver leading into the first corner.
Norris at least managed to keep pace with Verstappen for more than half of the 24-lap event before falling back and finishing just over four seconds adrift at the chequered flag.
Horner has no doubt Verstappen would have beaten Norris anyway, event if the McLaren driver had managed to hold off his Dutch rival over the first lap.
“I think that you can overtake here,” said Horner. “You can see it took Lando a couple of laps to get past (George) Russell, so I think he (Verstappen) would have been fine.”
Horner has been impressed with McLaren’s pace so far this weekend, and feels they could continue to impose themselves into 2024.
“I would say it’s the most consistent car behind us at the moment,” assessed Horner.
“They’ve obviously made good progress in the second half of this year, and if they continue on the same form, then for sure, they’ll be a contender next year.”