Christian Horner has defended Red Bull’s strategy for Sergio Perez in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by suggesting Charles Leclerc will have more to rue in 2022.
Red Bull deployed a two-stop strategy for Perez at Yas Marina which left him facing an ultimately vain pursuit of Leclerc in the closing stages for second place behind Max Verstappen, both in the race and the World Championship.
Ferrari opted to call Leclerc into the pits only once and that proved decisive as his track position enabled him to cling on from the charging Perez, who was held up trying to overtake Lewis Hamilton and pass some lapped backmarkers.
Leclerc, of course, was clear in the World Championship after he won two of this season’s first three races, but his title assault quickly crumbled as several more potential victories were thrown away as a result of car breakdowns, strategy mistakes or driving errors.
Second position, 146 points behind runaway champion Verstappen, went to the Monegasque, but Red Bull team principal Horner still feels Leclerc has more to reflect upon in terms of what might have been than Perez – despite what happened in Abu Dhabi and also Verstappen’s refusal to hand a place back, worth two points, in Brazil a week earlier.
“I think you’ve got to look at the season as a whole and I think when you look at it, both Charles and Checo will be ruing opportunities missed – probably quite a few more for Charles than there was for Checo,” Horner told media including PlanetF1.
“You’ve got to look at it as a performance over a year, not over an individual race, and Checo’s had the best year he’s ever had in Formula 1. He won the Monaco Grand Prix, his drive in Singapore was outstanding – the best grand prix I’ve seen him drive – and I think he’ll take a huge amount of positives.
“It’s the first time he’s finished in the top three in this championship. I think he’ll take many lessons out of this year.”
Horner explained the decision to call in Perez for a second pit-stop on lap 34 while running second to Verstappen – a point at which Ferrari took the gamble to try the opposite approach in their quest for Leclerc to finish ahead of the Mexican, as was required to clinch P2 in the championship.
“It was all about the front right tyre,” said Horner. “It was just graining and opening up and at that point was dying, and you saw Charles then close in.
“Basically, they (Ferrari) called to pit, or to do the opposite to Checo, we banked the stop, but that then exposed him (Leclerc) massively at the end of the stint.
“So I felt rather than sort of die at the end of it and be a sitting duck, we’d take an attacking strategy.
“Maybe if he had managed to make it past Hamilton…the ifs, buts and maybes. There’s a couple of backmarkers that didn’t help. But it was so, so close.”
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher