Christian Horner praised Red Bull’s pit crew after the Spanish Grand Prix, even though a four-second stop for Max Verstappen fell short of their usual high standards.
Rather than being annoyed at a vital tyre change that took twice their normal time, Horner said the mechanics had reacted “incredibly well” because they were not expecting the car to come in when it did.
On lap 24, with Verstappen leading the race but under pressure from Sir Lewis Hamilton, the Dutchman dived into the pits for what was scheduled at the time to be his only stop.
At 4.2 seconds, it was more than double the two-second stops that Red Bull have made their trademark – but according to the team principal, it could have been significantly worse.
“Unfortunately, we were gearing up for the stop and then Max just arrived in the pit lane and we hadn’t actually called him in at that point,” Horner told Sky F1 after a race in which Verstappen finished second behind Hamilton for the third time in four grands prix this year.
“So quick reactions from the pit wall, from GP [Gianpiero Lambiase] his race engineer, from the pit crew to get that turned around without losing more time – I think it was a four-second stop. They recovered incredibly well to get that turned around at that short notice.”
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Even though Verstappen, who started second on the grid and passed pole-sitter Hamilton into Turn 1, had led for the vast majority of the race, Horner nevertheless conceded that Mercedes had the quicker car.
A second pit-stop for Hamilton, which Red Bull did not cover off, made the difference in the end as the seven-time World Champion made up a deficit of over 20 seconds on much fresher tyres and hunted down Verstappen to take his 98th F1 race victory.
“Because we’d had that slow stop we thought they [Mercedes] would immediately take that next lap,” added Horner.
“Obviously they didn’t and we got back the track position, but they just looked like they had the quicker car today.
“They didn’t have the tyre wear, they were able to follow so closely and it gave them all the options.
“They didn’t look like they would pass Max on track on the same strategy, so they had nothing to lose by taking a pit stop into the clean air and it worked out for them today.”