Christian Horner: 'I have to say, thank you to Nicholas Latifi'

F1

Christian Horner paid tongue-in-cheek tribute to Nicholas Latifi for bringing out the safety car which helped Max Verstappen win the title, before expressing his disappointment with Mercedes' protest

Christian Horner

Red Bull

Christian Horner has reacted to Max Verstappen’s dramatic and controversial title win, saying – “I have to say, thank you to Nicholas Latifi,” after the Williams driver caused a safety car and final flying lap which allowed the Dutchman to snatch the title, before Mercedes then announced its intention to protest the result of the race and championship, also expressing his frustration with his rival’s decision.

Hamilton appeared to have secured the race result as the contest came to a close, keeping a 12sec gap over the Dutchman, with his race pace seeing Red Bull’s attempts at alternate tyre strategy turn out unsuccessful.

However, the WIlliams crashing brought out the the safety car, closing up the field. then followed a controversial decision by Michael Masi to let only the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen allowed a last lap showdown between the two title contenders, with the latter winning out.

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“Just about sums up this year, I think,” said Horner afterwards. “I called it on a commentary that it was gonna need some from racing gods in the last 10 laps. And thank you, Nicholas Latifi, for that safety car!”

When informed of Mercedes protest, he said: “We’re disappointed there’s been a protest, but we trust the FIA”

“I have to say with the stewards we felt hard done, early in the race, but they did great to get the race going again.

“It’s been an insane competition and for Max to win the world championship. It’s not just about here. It’s about a whole year.”

Horner also paid tribute to Hamilton, was has fought a vicious and sometimes controversial title fight with Verstappen all year long.

“I have to say, look, all credit to Lewis. He’s been a phenomenal opponent all year, a great world champion, and that’s what makes it even more valid to win this.”

Asked about his interaction with Masi towards the end of the race, he said:

“I was screaming at him: ‘Let them race, that’s what we’ve been talking about all these years, let them race.

“This championship came down to the last lap and a great strategy call, to make that pit stop, to take that set of soft – so then it was down to Max to make it happen.”

Commenting on Masi’s decision, he said: “It’s unheard of to leave the cars unlapped – you can see they wanted to get the race going again. But they don’t need to catch up the back of the pack, so they [the FIA] made absolutely the right call, difficult circumstances for the stewards who we were all putting pressure on.

“They called it right, I’m just so proud of Max so proud of the team for what we’ve been through this year, what we’ve achieved.”