Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes that the team “overperformed” in the Formula 1 2019 season-opening Australian Grand Prix in which Max Verstappen clinched third place.
After starting in fourth, Verstappen was able to extend his first stint further than both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel ahead to hold a tyre advantage in the closing stages.
Verstappen emerged from the pits still fourth, but quickly caught and passed Vettel’s Ferrari before closing in on Hamilton to challenge for second place in the closing stages.
Despite edging to within DRS range of the Mercedes on multiple occasions, Verstappen was unable to threaten an overtake and finished the race right behind the reigning champion in third.
Red Bull team principal Horner believes that the team “over-performed” in the race.
“Great day for us,” he said when speaking to Sky Sports F1. “To get a podium, Max’s drive, his pass on Seb and then put Lewis under pressure for the second half of the race – it was a fantastic performance and for us to get a podium in the first race with a new powerunit is a dream start.
“I think we’ve over-performed in the race. We were more competitive in the race than we thought we would be on Friday.
“To put Lewis under pressure for pretty much 50 percent of the grand prix, we looked like we had a quicker car than him, certainly in the second half.
“To do that at [Albert Park] is very encouraging for us and I think we’ve got a good basis on which to start and really develop this car.”
Verstappen’s podium was the first for a Honda powered car since the 2008 British Grand Prix.
All four Honda supplied cars finished the race, while Renault – who Red Bull severed ties with at the end of last season – suffered a suspected MGU-K failure on Carlos Sainz Jr’s McLaren.
“[Honda has] given us a great product over the winter and the engine is delivering good power and it’s reliable,” Horner added.
“Max has been able to use that to good effect today – to be able to pass the Ferrari and race wheel to wheel on the straight with them is really positive.”
Verstappen’s new team-mate Pierre Gasly finished the race in 11th after a strategic error during qualifying meant that he started only 17th on the grid.