Charles Leclerc was “hung out to dry” thanks to Red Bull’s call to pit Max Verstappen early, that’s according to Christian Horner.
The team orders that cost Leclerc fourth place in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix have been widely reported on with most believing that had Ferrari not issued them, Verstappen’s undercut on Leclerc would not have been as successful.
As it was the Dutchman’s early pit stop meant he was on fresher tyres, got the jump on Leclerc in the first round of pit stops and never looked back.
Even Ferrari’s decision to run Leclerc longer than his rivals to put him on fresher tyres at the end of the grand prix didn’t help.
“We pitted Max and it triggered the two stops for everybody else,” Horner told Racer.
“Our rationale pretty early on was that the most upside we could have was in the upside of a two-stop, like a Safety Car, and others had elected to stay on the one-stop strategy.
“I don’t think we had a faster car than Ferrari, so our best way to beat at least one of their cars was going on to the two-stop.
“That sparked discussion between Sebastian [Vettel] and his pit wall about whether they would pit, and in the end they covered, which saw Mercedes cover him.
“Leclerc got hung out to dry a little bit.
“For us P4 was the maximum.”
The Red Bull team boss also weighed in on Verstappen’s attack on Vettel for third, which took place at Turn 14 – as it did a year earlier.
But while in 2018 the duo crashed, this year Vettel anticipated Verstappen’s lunge and was able to hold him off.
Toe-to-toe and wheel-to-wheel
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 14, 2019
“I think he has been very mature about it,” Horner said.
“He has driven three strong grands prix so far this year, and was obviously unlucky not to be on the podium in Bahrain, and we see he had a go at Sebastian (in China) after the pit stop, and he drove a very mature race to bring it home fourth.
“It is about points accumulation at this stage. It still not that big a gap to the guys ahead, he is still ahead of both Ferrari drivers in the championship at the moment, and still a long, long way to go. So it is important you don’t give away too much ground at this stage of the year.”