‘We didn’t feel that Max had gained an advantage,’ says Horner

Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner seen in the garage during United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on Oct. 23, 2016 in Austin, United States. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner said it was frustrating that Max Verstappen lost third place in Mexico for gaining an advantage when he ran off the track while battling with Sebastian Vettel.

Verstappen initially dropped to fifth, behind Daniel Ricciardo and Vettel, but later the German was penalized for a blocking move under braking, so Max moved up to fourth.

“It was a frustrating end to the race because it was such an exciting crescendo,” said Horner. “We didn’t feel that Max had gained an advantage under braking for Turn 1. He had locked up and gone straight on through the grass, come out ahead of Sebastian. But Sebastian, if he had been alongside him or making a passing move on him, then perhaps we would have understood more that penalty.

“It was no different to Lewis’ issue at the beginning of the race where he actually did come out further up the road. So we sought clarification from race control, and they said they wanted to have a further look at it and establish who was ahead.

“So obviously we left Verstappen in position without having a directive to let Sebastian go. In the meantime, Daniel, who had made a stop with 20-odd laps to go on the soft tire, was catching Sebastian and we predicted him to catch with four laps to go. And obviously he did that.”

Regarding Vettel’s robust defense, Horner said: “He went to make a move into Turn 4, and then there has been so much debate about movement on the brakes since Japan, a clear directive came out last weekend. And a clear movement was made on the brakes, and had that been prior to that ruling, it would possibly have been OK. But the rules are clearly what the rules are.

“So, Sebastian has ended up with a 10-second penalty that has now elevated both of our drivers to third and fourth, so we have the slightly unusual scenario where we have had Max finish third on the road, make it as far as the green room, for Sebastian to go on the podium and take the plaudits for Daniel to be taking the trophy home.”

Horner admitted that track layouts like Mexico allow drivers to cut the corner.

“Bernie’s view is put a wall there… which is probably one end of the spectrum. But I definitely think there is an argument for a gravel trap, because then if you end up in the gravel you either lose an enormous amount of time, or you are out of the race.

“I think it really is something that should be looked at for corners like Turn 1 to see if gravel is a better deterrent than large tarmac run off areas. It remains too open to interpretation, because why was Max’s move any different to Lewis’ at the chicane in Monte Carlo, or Lewis on that one here. Again, you are leaving it constantly up to the stewards’ interpretation on individual events. If there is a gravel trap there they pay the price and it is as simple as that.”