Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner says the decision to allow racing on the last lap of Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was “the right thing.”
The contentious move allowed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to overtake Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton and seal his first world title in dramatic circumstances, denying Hamilton a record-breaking eighth championship.
Mercedes lodged two protests about the race on Sunday, both of which were rejected by officials, and had intended to appeal the decision before announcing Thursday that the appeal had been withdrawn.
Controversy surrounded the end of the race when a safety car was deployed following Nicholas Latifi’s crash with four laps remaining.
Race director Michael Masi initially said that lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen would not be allowed to unlap themselves, but Masi then appeared to change his mind moments later, leaving Verstappen right behind Hamilton with fresh tires on the final lap.
“There was an accident, there had to be a safety car. They did the right thing,” Horner told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies.
“I think there was enough time for the cars to unlap themselves. The race director, he’s in charge. He has more sight, more information than anybody. We’ve always talked about not wanting to finish races under the safety car, it’s not a good way to finish a Grand Prix.”
Hamilton and Verstappen were level on points ahead of the race in Abu Dhabi before the chaotic finish swung the title contest in Red Bull’s favor.
The victory ended Mercedes’ run of seven straight titles — six of which were won by Hamilton and one by Nico Rosberg in 2016.
“We’ve never stopped believing,” said Horner, whose Red Bull team last won the drivers’ championship with Sebastian Vettel in 2013.
“In life, if you want something badly enough and you really believe in something, then anything is achievable.
“Mercedes, they’re such a dominant team in the last seven years. They’ve raised the bar incredibly highly.
“Lewis is an outstanding world champion, the most successful driver of all time. To take them on at their peak and be able to beat them, that’s what makes this even more rewarding and it just demonstrates that anything in life is possible.”
Horner added that Verstappen’s expertise had been the difference this year; over the course of the season, the 24-year-old finished first or second in all but four races.
“He drives with passion, he drives with tremendous bravery, huge commitment,” said Horner.
“He’s really harnessed that this year and he’s made so few mistakes. He’s been absolutely outstanding.”
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