Christian Horner has admitted Red Bull were “let off the hook” by Ferrari’s strategy in the British Grand Prix that cost Charles Leclerc a potential victory.
Leclerc, who has looked to be Max Verstappen’s main World Championship rival during the first 10 races of this season, was leading at Silverstone ahead of his Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton when a Safety Car period cast a different light on proceedings for the last quarter of the race.
While Ferrari called Sainz into the pits under the Safety Car for a set of soft tyres, and the rival teams did likewise with their contenders, Leclerc was left out to try and defend at the restart on his set of hards.
He was not surprisingly a sitting duck when racing resumed and despite battling hard, he fell behind Sainz – who secured his first F1 victory – Sergio Perez and Hamilton to finish fourth.
That meant a potential 26 points became only 12 and with Verstappen down in seventh with a damaged Red Bull car, it meant Leclerc gained only six points on the Dutchman.
Indeed, Leclerc is now nine points behind second-placed Perez in the standings, with the Mexican trailing his Red Bull colleague by 34.
Leclerc has been hindered by Ferrari breakdowns and poor strategy decisions at several races this year and Horner, the Red Bull team principal, felt the Scuderia had got it wrong again.
“I guess so many things happened in that race,” Horner told Channel 4, with Verstappen having looked set for a comfortable win until running over debris on lap 12 and sustaining his damage.
“Max fighting so hard to P7 has never been so valuable and I think Ferrari let us off the hook a little bit with Charles.
“Fantastic for Carlos, he has always been a very quick young driver and he got the better strategy today.
“Obviously they split their cars. It was difficult to understand why. But that wasn’t anything to do with us. It was up to them to capitalise on us and it made Charles vulnerable to Checo [Perez], who was able to get that podium.”
From a championship perspective, there was a modicum of good news for Ferrari in that they cut their Constructors’ Championship deficit to Red Bull to 63 points, but the Italian giants still look to have – pardon the pun – a mountain to climb as they head to round 11 in Austria.
Highlights from the British Grand Prix
Put simply, it was a quite remarkable British Grand Prix on Sunday.