Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says Max Verstappen’s “disciplined and mature” Formula 1 tyre management tactics were a crucial factor behind winning the Austrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen passed Kimi Raikkonen on the opening lap and found himself in the lead of the race when Red Bull gambled by pitting both its drivers under an early Virtual Safety Car period, as Mercedes kept Lewis Hamilton out on-track. 

While Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo and Hamilton both suffered with severe blistering on the Soft compound, Verstappen was able to manage his tyres throughout and fended off the Ferrari duo of Raikkonen and Vettel to win at the Red Bull Ring

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“He was very much in control,” Horner said. “It was a very disciplined and mature drive. He had a very good feeling for how to manage the tires, the slip, the control, so it was a really impressive job.

“Max has got a great ability to do that. He did it in his first win in Barcelona. He knew that the race was all about tyre conservation, because temperatures were hotter today, probably 10-12 degrees hotter than Friday.”

Horner revealed concerns about excessive tyre wear were highlighted in the team’s pre-race briefing, having witnessed a number of drivers struggle with rear degradation in the supporting Formula 2 race on Sunday morning. 

“You could see in the support races, a couple of F2 guys getting into trouble with rear deg,” he explained. “So it was something we talked about in the briefing before the race, to say this is might not be as easy a one-stop as we thought.

“It was a question of these tyres having to go the distance. Daniel had used his tyres up harder in the fight with Kimi, and Max did a very mature job in managing the tyres, particularly through Turns 8 and 9. It was all about keeping the slip, the temperatures under control, particularly the left rear.  

“Thereafter Max, with tyres that were fragile, we could see the start of blisters just starting to happen,” Horner added. “But he was able to manage that. He was very much in control. 

“He was getting the information from the pit wall, he was using the tools he had available to him. A very mature drive from him to make sure he had just enough left in the last laps, because Ferrari were probably better than us on tire deg today.”

Verstappen endured a tough start to the season and faced calls for a change of approach after being involved in an incident at each of the opening six rounds, but he has responded strongly, claiming back-to-back podiums in Canada and France prior to his Spielberg win. 

As a result, the Ducthman has leapfrogged Bottas to fifth in the drivers’ standings and is just 53 points behind new championship leader Vettel. 

“I think Max obviously has had a tough first third of the year, and I think all credit to him, he’s kept his head and he’s put in three very impressive drives,” Horner said.  

“He tends to be looking forward not backwards. When you look at the tables you look at the what ifs, and it could’ve been a lot closer than it is but there’s still twelve races to go.” 

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