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Red Bull: Norris F1 Brazil GP battle was a “cat and mouse” game

Red Bull has admitted to feeling the pressure from the “cat and mouse” game it had to play against Lando Norris in Formula 1’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen appeared to have little trouble managing the pace at the front of the Interlagos race on Sunday, after pulling off a similar win in Saturday’s sprint event.

However, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says it was far from straightforward as the team needed to ask conflicting things from its lead driver.

PLUS: The crucial lap that swung F1's Brazilian GP from Norris to Verstappen

“I think there was definitely a race,” explained Horner. “Lando took his best set of tyres at the start and his best shot was probably off the line.

“So, I was relieved to see Max keep the lead at the end of the first lap.

“But then it becomes a game of cat and mouse, because it's about looking after the tyres and not stressing them too much. You are telling the driver look after the tyres, but pull out a gap - and the tow here is pretty powerful.

“But just like in the sprint, Max managed it incredibly well and was able to start to pull a gap. We then pitted on the same lap as Lando, and we actually extended the lead through the pitstop to just over five seconds.

“Then, on the medium [tyre], he had everything under control in the last stint. In the end it was reasonably straightforward, but McLaren definitely have been, over the last few races, our closest competitor.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, in the Press Conference

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, in the Press Conference

Verstappen agreed with Horner’s assessment that, while everything looked straightforward from the outside, there were phases of the race where Norris had him on his toes.

“Maybe it looks fully easy from the outside, but I think for most of every stint, Lando was matching my lap times,” he said.

“It was always like the last five to ten laps [of a stint) when it seemed like we had better tyre deg. But yeah, the beginning of every stint, I definitely had to focus a lot and I couldn’t afford to make mistakes.

“And around here with the high deg as well, it’s not the easiest to drive. It’s not like you can just relax and let the car just roll into the corners without any consequence. You had to be really on it. Luckily, everything we did today, also strategy-wise, pit stops, were good. So, very happy about that.”

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But while McLaren is now regarded as Red Bull’s most consistent challenger, Horner says it makes no difference to his squad who is behind it.

“It's been different people at different times during the year,” he said. “I think we just keep focusing on ourselves, and whoever's behind us on the timesheet is almost irrelevant. So long as we're at the top of it, that's what we focus on.”

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