MEXICO CITY — Christian Horner said the “absolutely perfect” lap Daniel Ricciardo pulled out of the bag for pole position at the Mexican Grand Prix was exactly what the Australian needed after his recent run of poor form.
Having seen teammate Max Verstappen go quickest in all three qualifying sessions and then set the fastest time at the beginning of the Q3 fight for pole, Ricciardo leapt from fourth to first at the final attempt to deny the Dutchman the chance to become the youngest driver to ever achieve the feat. It is the first time Ricciardo out-qualified Verstappen on a penalty-free weekend for Red Bull since his last pole position, at May’s Monaco Grand Prix, which he won.
His final Q3 lap left Red Bull team boss Horner in awe.
“Where did that lap come from?” he said on Sky Sports after qualifying. “It was mighty. He’s been a couple of tenths off all weekend, and then suddenly on that last set of tyres, boom!
“It was just absolutely perfect. Second and third sector he just nailed it. It sort of came from nowhere really!”
In recent weeks, Ricciardo has been beset with a raft of car issues, with his early retirement from last weekend’s U.S. Grand Prix leading Horner to question why Renault was continuing to allow his run of reliability issues given his imminent move from Red Bull in 2019. Horner was delighted to see the Australian driver’s run of bad luck turn around in such dramatic fashion.
“You could hear how happy he was on the slow-down lap, so really pleased for him,” Horner said. “After his bad luck, I’m so happy for him.”
It was Red Bull’s first lock-out of the front row of the grid since the 2013 U.S. Grand Prix in Austin. Horner said the result vindicated the team’s decision to take engine penalties earlier in the season to ensure it could maximise its performance at circuits like Suzuka and Mexico.
“I said coming to this event, this altitude of race brings the engines closer within the bracket of Mercedes and Ferrari,” he said. “We’ve got a great car, we’ve got great drivers, and it’s been well executed today. We just need to try and convert it into a big result tomorrow.”