McLaren’s challenge to Red Bull was a surprise to Max Verstappen as he had to fight to beat Lando Norris in the British Grand Prix for the team’s 11th win in a row.
Verstappen started from pole but lost out off the line and was left to fend off Oscar Piastri as Norris took the lead for the opening four laps. While the Dutchman soon overtook Norris, the McLaren was able to stay close for a number of laps and used DRS to put pressure on initially, with Verstappen admitting he didn’t expect such a threat.
“It wasn’t particularly straightforward,” Verstappen said. “I had a bad start, lots of wheelspin, and so I had to work my way up again and get past Lando – it took a few laps. Then it also took a few laps to cool the tires down again in the lead, so Lando came back at me in the DRS, but once everything settled in we could open up the gap lap after lap to nine seconds until the safety car came out.
“So that was very positive and the team was working quite well. But it was still surprising to see that the McLaren, or Lando, was actually that quick over the whole stint. And then because of the safety car we had to make the decision of what tire to put on – the soft or the hard – so we opted to go for the soft, which at the time I thought was right, but when we restarted it only took a few laps and then I realized it was quite tricky to keep them under control with the temperatures.
“It wasn’t particularly nice to drive, so we will look into that and maybe we should have gone on the hard tyre so we could have pushed a bit harder over the whole stint because the first two or three laps were a bit difficult.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was less surprised that Norris got the jump at the start but was left fearing Verstappen could be caught in an incident with Oscar Piastri as the pair went side-by-side into Copse on the opening lap.
“I need to hear what Max has to say and what the engineers have to say,” Horner said. “But historically, here, second place has tended to get the better start. Lando and particularly Piastri had a flyer. It was just a question of staying cool and then Max was able to make the pass a few laps later.
“My thoughts were ‘not great,’ but at least he came through Copse! Once he was through Copse I thought at least I can go over to the pit wall and from there it was just a matter of settling in and staying in the DRS.”