Red Bull endured their most challenging weekend of the year as they slumped to fifth and eighth respectively at the chequered flag.

The team failed to have one car in Q3 for the first time since Russia 2018, while their overall performance was well behind the leading trio of Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren.

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Still, Verstappen showed great pace in the latter stages when he switched to the mediums, finishing right behind Charles Leclerc for fourth.

Horner believes without the Safety Car, Verstappen would have “definitely coming into play” at the end of the race due to how slow Carlos Sainz was driving - as part of Ferrari’s tactics to prevent Mercedes from doing a two-stop strategy.

“I think the pre-race simulations was saying about P7,” Horner said. “But that's in a standard race. 

“I think, ironically enough, if we'd have had a standard race, the strategy that we had with Carlos holding the front up because of the deg on those Hard tyres, Max would have definitely come into play with the pace that he had at the end of the race. 

“So when you look at the distance, the delta he was off to the leaders, by the end of it, if you take away the delta for the free stops, suddenly bang - he’s right in the game.”

After a poor qualifying, Horner felt that Red Bull were closer to their true pace on race day.

“I think we understood a lot more in the race and the pace of the car came much more back to what we expected,” Horner added.

“Coming here we expected to have closer competition. But I think it took us a bit by surprise just how far out we were on Friday. And I think that we were just not in the right operating window for the car, particularly over a single lap, and when you’re not there then the tyres feel horrible, everything just doesn’t work.

“So I think we got a very good steer in the race, I think that we saw, particularly in the latter stint, that Max’s pace was very, very strong.”