MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- The word "reserved" is not one you would normally associate with Max Vetstappen's racing style, but it is how Christian Horner described his impressive Monaco Grand Prix performance.
For most of the race, Verstappen placed struggling race leader Lewis Hamilton under enormous pressure, often getting agonisingly close to the Mercedes driver at the hairpin but dropping too far back through Portier and the tunnel to make a move. Doing so was imperative -- an early pit-lane collision with ValtterI Bottas earned Verstappen a five-second time penalty, meaning he had to get past Hamilton and clear enough up the road to win the contest.
As it turned out, his only attempt to pass came with three laps remaining, and led to light contact with Hamilton, who held on the lead. Verstappen crossed the line in second but was immediately shuffled to fourth position behind Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas once his penalty was served.
The move itself was a fairly optimistic lunge -- Verstappen himself said after the race he felt he had to go for it -- but Horner was impressed with the Dutchman's patience leading up to that moment.
"I thought he was really reserved, he was building up, building up," Horner said. "That was really the only one big chance he had, and he went for it, which is Max."
Verstappen has been one of 2019's standout performers so far and Horner felt a spot on the podium would have been ample reward for his perseverance in Monaco.
"Tough for him because he drove a mighty race, he drove with all his heart, but P4 feels a little bit bitter after such a great drive. But it is what it is, the stewards made a decision that they thought was fair for them, and we have to accept that. His only chance was to pass Hamilton and pull out the five seconds.
"He deserved to be on the podium today. The encouraging thing is that the performance is right there, he was pushing, pushing, pushing, he fought like a lion, tried to make the pass on Lewis, and it was worth a go."
Verstappen revealed he had been in the wrong engine torque setting after his first pit-stop, having failed to make a necessary change before the Bottas incident. It effectively left him with the setting he would have used at the start for the entire race.
"Once on track you're stuck with it and we only did one stop," Verstappen said. "Normally I would always go back, but of course with the touch, looking in the mirror all the time, and then I think the team were also a little bit shocked with the whole thing, they were also checking for damage.
"Normally they remind me but obviously it's my job to still do it. I also forgot with all the hectic scenarios."