Christian Horner praised Max Verstappen’s “incredibly well managed” performance in the inaugural sprint qualifying event on Saturday after Red Bull finally knocked Mercedes off the front of the field at Silverstone.
Mercedes has been on pole at Silverstone in every race since Fernando Alonso put Ferrari on top in 2012, while no Red Bull driver has started from the front at the British track since Mark Webber did so in 2011.
Horner said: ”It’s achieving pole position in a different way in that sprint race, but it’s the first time that anything other than a Mercedes in the last nine years will be starting from pole tomorrow. That’s great.
“Max managed the race incredibly well, the start was crucial for us. He was on fire! A great launch for us and the Mercedes, in particular, were particularly strong in that first sector.
“Staying ahead down that first main straight was going to be incredibly important for us. It’s going to be even hotter tomorrow and we will see what effect that has on things.
“Fantastic to be starting from pole position, we’ve achieved it in a different way today, great to get that first-ever victory and great for the fans to see a different form of racing, I think they enjoyed it.”
Mercedes has clear straight-line strength - Horner
The sprint race offered a uniquely different take on the performance of the F1 cars, as drivers had a free tyre choice, started on much lower fuel loads and were free from strategy decisions to attack from start to finish.
Hamilton, who had started from pole, pushed Verstappen all the way, showing impressive straight-line speed and causing the Dutch driver to badly blister the tyres on his Red Bull.
Horner is not too concerned about that issue, however, and said: “They’ll be starting heavy tomorrow and then obviously the tyre gets a bit of an easier workout in the corners to begin with in the race.
“Obviously, you can see there was very little between the cars in terms of tyre wear. I think we were obviously slightly better off than Lewis, we’re quick in the corners, they’re quicker down the straights
“It’s just a different way of achieving the lap times, but they are mighty in a straight line, you can see that also with the wing level they’re running.”
Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez was one of the biggest losers from the sprint qualifying format, suffering a high-speed spin and being retired from the event before the finish.
Horner explained: “He’s obviously just lost the rear of the car, there was no major issue but it put a huge flat spot, thankfully we didn’t hit anything and then the levels of vibration were so high, that’s why we retired the car.
“It enables us to check it all over fully in time for tomorrow. You can do front wing and tyre pressure. Checo, because obviously we’re going to have to do some safety checks on that car we are going to have to get permission to do that.”