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Red Bull: Verstappen now “so good” at reading F1 races

Red Bull says Max Verstappen’s supremacy in being able to read a race has been key to his clinical delivery of victories in Formula 1 this season.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

While the world champion squad’s rivals have all closed in over the course of this season, Verstappen has always appeared to have enough in hand to fend off anyone who looks on the verge of an attack.

It was a story repeated at last weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix, where McLaren’s Lando Norris looked like being able to threaten Verstappen in both the sprint and the main race – before the lead Red Bull was able to stretch its legs.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says that the scenarios playing out are not a case of the team sandbagging to disguise its true advantage and only pushing hard when it needed to.

Instead, it was more about Verstappen being a master of managing his pace and tyres to ensure he always stayed in control.

“I think that everybody manages their pace differently in a race, but I think Max has become so good at reading a race,” explained Horner.

“He doesn't panic if he sees someone taking time out of him in the middle sector or whatever. That’s because he's looking at the long game.

“And I think he's just got that inner confidence that he knows where he is.”

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing

Horner thinks that Verstappen is now reaping the rewards for knowledge he gained during previous seasons – even when he was being beaten by the then dominant Mercedes team.

Asked when he saw Verstappen develop this ability to perfectly judge his tyre management, Horner said: “2019, I think it was during that period he really, really stepped it up.

“Then ’19 into '20 to a degree. Mercedes had a rocketship in '20, but we were still able to win some races that year. And then obviously '21 was massive.”

But while Verstappen has made winning look easy in F1, he says that high degradation races like Brazil are far from straightforward to manage.

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

“It was always like the last five to ten laps when it seemed like then, of course, 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.

“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.”

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