Ex-Formula 1 team boss, Flavio Briatore, believes poor strategy played a role in Red Bull having to settle for second best at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen were locked in a fierce battle for the race win in the Sakhir desert and while the latter failed to make his overtake stick on Hamilton with three laps to go, an on-looking Briatore thinks Red Bull could have better optimised their race strategy.
Both Hamilton and Verstappen were on a two-stop strategy, with Hamilton first coming in on lap 13 for new hard tyres while Verstappen extended his first stint by an extra four laps, fitting new medium tyres.
At the second round of pit stops, Hamilton came in again for another new set of hard tyres on lap 28 to last him to the end of the 56-lap race and Verstappen did not switch to a new set of hards himself until lap 39, giving him 17 laps to chase Hamilton down.
Briatore is of the opinion that Red Bull’s stops could have come sooner.
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“It was a beautiful Grand Prix but I think Verstappen could have won,” Briatore told Adnkronos.
“Red Bull delayed too much in calling him back to the pits for the tyre change, but the car is very powerful. There will be times when Mercedes will dominate races, but certainly Red Bull will have a say in the title given Verstappen’s performance.”
Much has been made about Verstappen’s one and only overtake attempt on Hamilton for the race win, which was deemed illegal by the FIA, who ordered Red Bull to give the position back to Hamilton because the move was completed outside of track limits.
Briatore agrees that the place had to be given back.
He added: “It was the correct decision on the part of the team because they were aware of it and the call is normal.
“The mistake was not calling him back to the pits sooner because he had used tyres and Hamilton kept taking him 3-4 tenths a lap, but it was a good show.”
There were also signs of improvement from Ferrari as they look to recover from their worst season finish in four decades. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz both finished in the points, and Briatore thinks that is the best they can hope for throughout the 2021 season.
“Who can work and have room to improve could be Ferrari,” he said.
“They have two good drivers, both Sainz and Leclerc have done a good job but the limit is still with the car.
“Ferrari will fight but it will be difficult for them to make podiums this year if everyone makes it to the end. It will be a fight to be the third strongest in the championship.”