Red Bull’s chief strategist points out what Ferrari did wrong in Hungary

Thomas Maher
Red Bull's Max Verstappen overtakes Ferrari's Charles Leclerc during the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2022.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen overtakes Ferrari's Charles Leclerc during the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2022.

Red Bull’s Hannah Schmitz has offered her opinion on Ferrari’s decision-making during the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Schmitz earned the praise of her team during the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, with race winner Max Verstappen praising her calmness during the post-race press conference.

Schmitz became Red Bull’s Principal Strategy Engineer midway through 2021, and her decision-making in Budapest proved instrumental in helping Verstappen take the win from 10th on the grid, thanks to an aggressive undercut pit call.

But Red Bull’s job was made considerably easier by Ferrari boxing themselves in and opting to use the Hard tyre for their final stint – a disastrous move as Charles Leclerc struggled for any sort of grip and pace, and fell prey to Verstappen in the process. Ferrari gave up on that strategy, bringing Leclerc in for Softs and dooming their title protagonist to a sixth-place finish.

With the strategic teams from Red Bull and Ferrari making headlines for completely differing reasons, Schmitz was asked for her thoughts on Ferrari’s poor decision-making in the heat of battle as she appeared on Sky F1’s Any Driven Monday.

Where did Ferrari go wrong?

“I guess the strategy they did is probably what we would have planned to do going into a race if we’d have been starting close to the lead, as well,” Schmitz outlined.

“But, I think the thing that really happened is, during the race, it became quite clear that the Hard tyre was not performing as expected.

“So our operations room were updating us on that information, and so we reacted to that and decided not to fit that tyre. We’re always looking at other teams because how they react impacts what strategy we should do.

“We’re always looking at them and making the decision. Because they started and already used two Mediums, it’s a much more difficult race for them from there.”

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in action at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2022.
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in action at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Budapest, July 2022.

Were Red Bull shocked by Ferrari call?

With Leclerc peeling back out onto the track with the white-marked Pirellis, Schmitz said there had been some surprise at Red Bull about the call.

“I guess they wanted to cover the track position,” she said.

“Maybe they didn’t think the Hard tyre was going to be as slow on their car as it was, because all the cars obviously also use tyres in different ways.

“So maybe they had some data that they thought the hard tyre would be OK. And, obviously, it wasn’t in the end for them. I think that was unfortunate. But yeah, I wouldn’t want to say anything bad about anyone’s strategy. I know what it’s like! I think it’s easy with hindsight.

“I think it was a really exciting race, actually, for a strategist because we got to do a lot of classic strategy, trying to make the undercuts work, which was really exciting compared to a one-stop race or something.

“I guess Ferrari, at that point, because they started on the Medium and used two Mediums, only really had the Hard or the Soft tyre. So, for them, it was maybe a trickier call in that situation. Fortunately, because we had started on that Soft, we then have the two Mediums for the rest of the race, which really ended up being the best race tyre by quite a long way.”

Schmitz enjoyed the ‘game of chess’

With Schmitz joining Mercedes‘ James Vowles in becoming a household name in the wake of Verstappen’s unlikely win from so far down the grid, she spoke at length about enjoying the collaborative way in which she works with the drivers, the engineers, and team boss Christian Horner to make the most competitive moves on track.

Having taken such a “satisfying” victory, she outlined what it is about her role as the main strategy playmaker that she relishes the most.

“I’ve always loved playing board games. I’m very competitive, I like to win,” she said.

“So I guess this is a way to almost play a board game. It’s a way of trying to think how you could win the race. I just find it incredibly exciting. Working as a team is also great, you’ve got all that team spirit.

“With so many races every other weekend, there’s always a new deadline, always a new race. It’s just incredibly exciting, and the adrenaline when you’re on the pitwall, and you feel like the decisions you make could have a direct impact on the race is just incredible.”