MELBOURNE: Red Bull had expected to get “trounced” at the Australian Grand Prix yesterday so Max Verstappen’s podium was a “dream start” for the new partnership with Honda engines, team principal Christian Horner said.
The young Dutchman Verstappen finished third behind Mercedes winner Valtteri Bottas and the Finn’s runnerup team mate Lewis Hamilton, having overtaken Sebastian Vettel late on in a symbolic blow for Ferrari.
Pre-race, Horner had warned his team were well off the pace of Mercedes and the Scuderia as Red Bull bedded in their new Honda-powered package.
So he was pleasantly surprised that Verstappen was able to pressure Hamilton to the finish line at Albert Park.
“I think we’ve over-performed in the race,” Horner said.
“We were more competitive in the race than perhaps we felt we were on Friday.
“To put Lewis under pressure for pretty much 50 percent of the Grand Prix, it looked like we had a quicker car than him certainly in the second half.
“To do that at this venue is really encouraging for us. We’ve got a good basis from which to start and really develop this car.”
Verstappen’s third placing secured Honda their first F1 podium since 2008, following difficult years as a supplier for McLaren in which their power units were pilloried for being unreliable and inefficient.
The podium result had proven too much for Honda motorsport boss Masashi Yamamoto, Horner said.
“Yamamoto-san was in tears at the podium,” he said. “It’s their first podium since Rubens Barrichello in 2008 and they’ve had a tough time since then.”