Reigning F1 champion Max Verstappen claimed his first victory of the season after an epic duel with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

The lead exchanged hands on several occasions as the pair battled each other tactically to ensure they had the DRS available down the start-finish straight. 

Verstappen eventually got ahead of Leclerc with the use of DRS into Turn 1 on Lap 47.

Red Bull started off the season with a double retirement with both Verstappen and Sergio Perez retiring from the Bahrain GP in the closing laps.

Red Bull revealed that a lack of fuel pressure was the cause of both retirements, however, it did have a fix in place for the Jeddah weekend.

Speaking on Sunday in Jeddah, Horner hailed Verstappen for his ‘maturity’ when battling Leclerc.

“Yes, it was great to rebound after the issues we had and what a great race,” Horner said. “It was a very strategic race for Max, not taking too much out of the tyres to make sure he had enough to attack at the end, and some great racing between him and Charles, thankfully he had enough to hang on at the end.

“I thought it was a very mature fight by Max, he looked after the tyres, made sure he had tyres left at the end, he worked things out, a bit of cat and mouse at the DRS line, but then he worked out where he needed to be, nailed the pass, and just had enough to hold Charles off.”

Horner was particularly pleased with Red Bull’s impressive early form given that its intense title fight with Mercedes in 2021 forced the team to focus on last year’s car rather than the new regulations.

“We’ve learned some good lessons,” Horner added. “What I’m particularly pleased with is we probably came onto the development of this car later than our rivals and the whole team in Milton Keynes after the effort that went into [Red Bull] 16B last year, the lateness of that championship, the pressed time for this car, they’ve worked incredibly hard, this is just the kind of result that injects a whole bunch of energy into the factory.”

Sympathy for Sergio Perez

It was an unfortunate weekend on the other side of the Red Bull garage for Perez.

The Mexican stormed to his maiden pole position with a breathtaking lap to beat Leclerc on Saturday.

Perez controlled the race from the front in the opening stint of the race, building a two-second lead over Leclerc behind.

To combat Ferrari’s threat of the undercut, Red Bull called Perez in on Lap 16 but it was unlucky timing as Nicholas Latifi had just crashed as Perez was circulating on his new tyres.

This resulted in a Safety Car and Perez lost out, dropping to fourth where he eventually finished.

“Desperately disappointing for Checo because what an incredible lap yesterday to get that pole, converted that into the lead, was controlling the race beautifully,” Horner added. “We pitted on the lap was discussed pre-race and then bang a Safety Car, a Safety Car sometimes they work for you sometimes again and it was unlucky today.”

Perez did initially rejoin in third ahead of Sainz but was deemed to be behind when the Spaniard exited the pit lane, meaning he was forced to relinquish the position.

“Checo had good pace at the beginning of the stint, was just starting to get tyre deg, we could see Charles getting within the undercut, you heard him say do the opposite of Checo so we decided to bank that lap to try and maintain track position, good stop, everything turned around, then the Safety Car gives the others a free stop,” Horner explained.

“Desperately unlucky for Checo, was so tight with Sainz as well, checked with race control, we felt we were slightly behind, we asked them to check and they confirmed that and that’s why the place was given back.”