Christian Horner makes Mercedes ‘no man’s land’ claim after US Grand Prix

Michelle Foster
Race winner Max Verstappen speaking with Lewis Hamilton after the race.

Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in serious conversation.

Christian Horner says after Mercedes aborted a one-stopper for Lewis Hamilton they were in “no man’s land”, but he’s still confident even without their strategy issues Max Verstappen had enough to hold him off.

Although Hamilton lined up third on the United States Grand Prix grid with Verstappen sixth, it was the Dutchman who clinched the victory to record his 15th win of the season and his 50th overall.

It was, however, a close one with Hamilton, who initially tried to run a one-stop strategy, bearing down on him in the final stint.

Did Mercedes hurt their victory chances with attempted one-stopper?

Running fourth and fifth in the early running with Hamilton ahead of Verstappen, the 2021 title rivals worked their way up the order with Verstappen the first of the two to stop.

But while Mercedes wanted to extend Hamilton’s opening stint with a one-stopper in mind, they pitted him on lap 21 with the Briton coming out behind the Red Bull.

Verstappen again stopped earlier than Hamilton for his second stop, the Dutchman on to the hard tyres, with Hamilton in a few laps later for mediums.

That gave Hamilton the tyre advantage in the final stint, however, Verstappen still held on to cross the line 2.225s ahead.

Horner reckons Mercedes’ failed attempt at a one-stop strategy cost the Briton as it left him in “no man’s land”.

“I think before the race all our simulations were telling us the two-stop was the fastest race for us and so that’s what we committed to,” he told Sky F1.

“The debate was do we run that hard in the middle stint or the medium. We knew going up against Lando that they committed to the two hards so we felt going medium-medium.

“It was crucial for Max to make use of that and get the pass done, get the track position and then run our fastest race to the end of the race.

“I think Mercedes they just found themselves in no man’s land today. They sort of attempted a one, aborted and obviously then took the better tyre, the medium tyre, for the final step.

“Thankfully we had just enough to hold them off.”

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Horner confident Verstappen could manage the gap

Verstappen was made to work for it as Hamilton in his upgraded W14 with its new floor had his most competitive Grand Prix of the season.

Verstappen meanwhile was nursing a brake issue that hurt his pace in the final stint.

“He was managing a brake issue throughout the race and you could hear he wasn’t happy about the brakes,” Horner said.

“When you’ve got that issue, you’re building in a bit of a margin. I think all his focus was on that and he knew very well what the gap was and he was managing that.”

Hamilton would later lose his runner-up result after being disqualified when his W14 failed a post-race floor inspection with the plank less than the minimum thickness of 9mm.

Verstappen’s 15th win of the season moved him up to 466 points in the Drivers’ standings while bringing his season’s podium tally to 17 from 18.

Read next: US Grand Prix conclusions: Resist Verstappen call, Mercedes’ eureka moment?