Christian Horner questions Mercedes’ ‘defeatist’ Monaco Grand Prix strategy

Jamie Woodhouse
George Russell, Mercedes, ahead of Max Verstappen, Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes at the 2024 Monaco Grand Prix.

George Russell, Mercedes, ahead of Max Verstappen, Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner “didn’t really understand” how Mercedes went about trying to defend P5 from Max Verstappen in Monaco, branding their strategy “defeatist”.

A multi-car shunt on the opening lap, which included Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, triggered the red flags and a subsequent standing restart, creating the chance for drivers to go to the end on that set of tyres, which Mercedes did with George Russell on his medium tyres.

Christian Horner calls Mercedes Monaco strategy ‘defeatist’

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

Russell put his mediums through a 77-lap stint to the end, slowing his pace right down in P5 as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen behind pitted and soon closed back up to the rear of the Mercedes, Russell then picking up the pace significantly and finishing within five seconds of McLaren’s Lando Norris ahead.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc claimed victory on home soil for the first time, as McLaren’s Oscar Piastri and Leclerc’s Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz completed the podium.

Verstappen was half a second behind Russell at the chequered flag and Horner was left perplexed by the Mercedes strategy, calling it “very defeatist”.

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Asked by media including whether F1 2024 is now looking like a harder season for Red Bull than many had expected, Horner replied: “Yeah, I think so.

“I mean, perhaps not with Mercedes, but I think with Ferrari and McLaren certainly look competitive and they cannot be discounted. So it’s a long, long championship and obviously, they’ve taken a reasonable chunk of points today.

“I didn’t really understand Mercedes’ race today. It was a hugely conservative race by George because to give up so much time, and then go so fast at the end of the race, but it didn’t really make a lot of sense.

“But I don’t think it would have changed… They weren’t going to overtake anybody. It was just a very defeatist race, just trying to defend fifth.”

Russell would provide further insight into that Mercedes strategy, explaining that the threat from Verstappen behind was “pretty controlled”.

“It was a long old race, a strange race,” he told Sky F1.

“The first 30 laps just felt like tootling around really and then when Max pitted, I sort of put my foot down a little bit and it was only afterwards I realised how much we closed the gap in on the Ferraris and the McLaren. So I was really pleased about that.

“And obviously, Max put me under a bit of pressure, but it was pretty controlled.

“For sure when that red flag came out it was frustrating for everybody because the only hope of a good race in Monaco is a bit of spiciness with the strategy and then the strategy was out the window, but we got the maximum we could.

“77 laps on a medium, really happy, and as I said, I think the gap got up to 20 seconds behind the McLarens and then we brought it down to six seconds or five seconds at the end. So I was really surprised at how well that lasted.

“Lots of positives to take away, the car is feeling good, the team is working hard and excited for the next race.”

Leclerc has reduced Verstappen’s Drivers’ Championship lead to 31 points with his Monaco win.

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