Christian Horner has revealed that he sees Lando Norris and McLaren as Red Bull’s biggest threat heading into the final two rounds of the 2023 season and beyond with Mercedes and Ferrari both out of contention in the fight for wins.
While Max Verstappen walked away from Interlagos with a pole position, as well as victories in both the sprint race and the Grand Prix, the weekend wasn’t quite as straightforward as it sounds with Norris clinching the sprint pole as well as pushing the reigning world champion to the limit throughout the first stint on Sunday.
When the chequered flag waved, Norris was trailing Verstappen by just over eight seconds, while the gap to third-placed Fernando Alonso stood at 34 seconds. The fortunes of Mercedes and Ferrari, however, were much less encouraging.
Leclerc found the barriers on the formation lap after a hydraulics issue caused him to lose power steering, while Hamilton dropped from a peak of third in the order to finish a disappointing eighth place on a miserable weekend for Mercedes.
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“I think there was definitely a race,” Horner explained when asked about the threat of McLaren in Brazil. “Lando took his best set of tyres at the start and his best shot was probably off the line.
“So, I was relieved to see Max keep the lead at the end of the first lap. But then it becomes a game of cat and mouse because it’s about looking after the tyres and not stressing them too much. You are telling the driver [to] look after the tyres, but pull out a gap – and the tow here is pretty powerful.
“But just like in the sprint, Max managed it incredibly well and was able to start to pull a gap. We then pitted on the same lap as Lando, and we actually extended the lead through the pitstop to just over five seconds.
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“Then, on the medium [tyre], he had everything under control in the last stint. In the end, it was reasonably straightforward, but McLaren definitely have been, over the last few races, our closest competitor.”
So strong has been the resurgence of McLaren that Norris only trails Alonso by three points in the Drivers’ Championship standings heading into the final two races of the year with fourth place now up for grabs for the 23-year-old.
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