Christian Horner has acknowledged Max Verstappen had to “buy into” the Red Bull tyre gamble that gave him the platform to win the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
The Red Bull team boss knew Verstappen’s best chance of beating Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas was by utilising a different strategy to the British Grand Prix, which had taken place at Silverstone a week earlier.
Thus Verstappen started with hard tyres, on which he had set his fastest Q2 time, whereas both Mercedes cars were on the mediums. Not only did this allow him to run longer before a first pit-stop, the Dutchman also had a stronger race pace than both Hamilton and Bottas.
It led to a first victory of the year for a non-Mercedes car, with Verstappen having finished second seven days earlier to Hamilton who was well clear when suffering a last-lap puncture.
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“Obviously he had to buy into it,” said Horner of the decision to start on hard tyres, as quoted by Motorsport.
“We ran the simulations, came up with the risk and reward and felt if we just did the same as Mercedes following last week’s performance, we’d end up with the same result.
“Our best bet to take on the Mercedes, we felt, was to do something different. And by starting on the hard tyre, that was a crucial factor.
“So at least by running the hard, the theory was that if there was a Safety Car later in the race, we’d have potentially a grip advantage at the back end of the race. But as it turned out, we actually had a pace advantage through the race.
“There’s more risk because if there’s a Safety Car at certain times then you could end up in a spot of bother with it, but there’s no crystal ball. It worked well, it was a gamble worth taking and it paid off.
“But we just simply had the pace which gave us that length of stint and pace advantage over the Mercedes.”
Horner hailed Verstappen’s tyre management as having played a vital role.
“I think Max has a great feeling for these tyres, we’ve seen him on numerous occasions manage the tyres incredibly well,” he added.
“He was very confident he was really protecting those tyres through the high-speed corners and was well placed for when the Mercedes cars pitted. He was absolutely right and he managed that incredibly well.”