Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes Daniel Ricciardo’s victory at the Chinese Grand Prix shows his driver is operating “at the top of his game” in Formula 1. 

Ricciardo benefitted from Red Bull’s bold strategy call to switch onto soft tyres following a mid-race Safety Car and pulled off a remarkable win from sixth on the grid, just 24 hours after his participation in qualifying was in doubt after suffering an engine issue in FP3. 

The Australian bounced back from a disappointing retirement at last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix in style, pulling off a series of brilliant overtaking manoeuvres on Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, former teammate Sebastian Vettel and race-leader Valtteri Bottas during a sensational 23 lap charge to his sixth victory in F1. 

“He’s a very rounded driver now,” Horner said. “He’s absolutely at the top of his game and I think he has been for the last couple of years. He’s hit that balance of experience and pace. 

“He’s one of the best overtakers in the business and his judgement is impeccable in terms of judging a gap, getting the car stopped and getting it rotated. 

“Daniel has been clinical in the way that he’s executed that race in the passing moves. There was one move on Lewis [Hamilton] at Turn 14, he came from so far back. He just got the job done.”

Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen finished fifth after being given a 10-second time penalty for pitching Vettel into a spin at Turn 14 as the pair battled over third place late on. 

The incident was the latest in a spate of collisions for Verstappen during the opening three races of the 2018 season, with the Dutchman coming under fire from reigning world champion Hamilton after the pair clashed in Bahrain

Horner said he is “fully confident” Verstappen will learn from his errors in judgement and become an even stronger driver as a result. 

“I feel Daniel’s in a different part of his career to where Max is at the moment, who is still very young and fresh and going through that experience.

“I’m fully confident that he’s a phenomenal talent and he’s smart enough to recognise areas that he needs to work on and I have no doubt that he will address it.

“I was talking with him after the race, he put his hand up, he’s apologised to Sebastian. He did that immediately as they got out of the cars. Sebastian I spoke with after the race and he appreciated Max had apologised to him. 

“Yes he’s made some mistakes but I remember when we had Sebastian at a similar stage of his career, it wasn’t uncommon that he also made some mistakes. He will have learned an awful lot from today and put that to good use in the coming races.”

And Horner, who admitted Verstappen had been too impatient with his approach to overtaking in China, is not worried the 20-year-old will lose any confidence or ability as a result of his recent incidents. 

“His talent is extremely obvious, his bravery and racing instinct is not in doubt. His judgement today, he was too impatient. He will have for sure learned from that. I have no doubt of that.”

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