Red Bull principal Christian Horner felt their Miami win could have been challenged if Ferrari had have pitted under the Safety Car.
The first Miami Grand Prix had settled into a rather calm affair, Verstappen leading comfortably after making the overtake early on title rival Charles Leclerc.
But when the Safety Car was triggered, that opened the door for some drivers to roll the dice on strategy.
Red Bull pitted Sergio Perez for fresh medium tyres, but kept Verstappen out, while Ferrari also bypassed the chance to pit Leclerc or Carlos Sainz.
Verstappen went on to win the race, with Horner feeling that Ferrari let them off the hook a little bit by not taking that cheap stop for soft tyres.
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“After the Safety Car we were quite lucky that Ferrari didn’t pit and take on a new tyre for that,” Horner told Sky F1.
“Because they probably could have put on the soft tyre, so at least that neutralised things, but then once Charles was in the DRS we couldn’t shake him off.
“And Max, it’s so much pressure in that position that it’s just easy to lock a wheel and so on, and he kept it clean, he didn’t make any mistakes then gradually was able to break…it took him about five or six laps to break the DRS and then he was able to manage it from there.”
Red Bull put their advantage in a straight line on full display, but Ferrari, who were expected to be strong in the slower sections, could not quite hammer home that strength in the same way.
Horner said it was a clear tactic from the team and Verstappen to keep his right-front tyre in good condition, something which Leclerc could not do in the first stint, that allowing Verstappen to close up and overtake.
“In the early laps Max was just hanging with him and looking after that tyre, and that was always our tactic going into the race, look after the right-front and keep Charles under pressure,” Horner explained.
“And then he was able to close up and with the straight-line speed advantage we had, he was able to make really good use of that, so a real tactical race.”
Verstappen seemed to comfortably have the beating of Leclerc before the Safety Car came out, at which point Leclerc could then suddenly attack once the race resumed.
Asked to explain that situation, Horner replied: “I think all the temperatures come down again, everything back in the window.
“And then the problem is the DRS is so powerful, they were able to close into that first section and then we couldn’t drop them on the rest of the lap and it is eking away a tenth and a tenth and a tenth.
“And then finally I think Charles had a little bit of a moment. Max was able to use it and then he broke the DRS and then was able to build a lead.”
Perez had a few looks at Sainz’s podium spot with his fresh tyres, but ultimately, could not make a move for P3.
The Mexican racer had lost a lot of time earlier in the race though after suffering a loss of power while he was harrying Sainz.
Horner explained that a sensor issue was to blame, believing Perez could well have finished P2 without it.
“We had a sensor issue on Checo’s engine,” Horner confirmed.
“The guys did well to move them around, but he lost probably 30 horsepower with that.
“He was losing half a second a lap, so I think without that he might even have been second, with the tyre advantage because we pitted him, he had that grip advantage over the Ferraris.”
Red Bull did reduce the deficit to Ferrari at the top of the Constructors’ standings again, Ferrari now leading by only six points.
Verstappen has also closed to within 19 points of Leclerc, but while that gap is coming down, it is still a sizeable one heading into the Spanish Grand Prix.
Horner said the team need Perez to stay in the fight to aid that recovery mission, while teasing more upgrades and weight saving to come which should help Red Bull’s cause too.
“We need Checo in there and he’s capable of doing that,” said Horner.
“You saw in Imola how quickly things can move around and I think we’ve got some interesting races coming up, the car is running well, we’ve got some developments hopefully coming latter in the summer that will help as well.
“We need to save a little bit of weight, but generally I think we are on a good trajectory.”
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