Red Bull put Sebastian Vettel’s pit stop drama in the Brazilian Grand Prix down to a very late strategy call amid fears of a safety car.
Vettel was left stationary in the pits for several seconds while his mechanics hunted for an errant right-front wheel that had been left in the garage. Team principal Christian Horner said that the mistake was made because teammate Mark Webber had initially been due into the pits for a scheduled stop. But the team then ordered Vettel in at the last second too to stave off the threat of a safety car following the collision between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
“As soon as we saw the accident for all intents and purpose it looked like it was going to be a safety car,” explained Horner. “Where Sebastian was on the circuit, if the safety car had picked him up at the exit of the pitlane he would have done a whole lap behind the safety car and everybody behind him would have had a free stop. So we made a very late call to say ‘pit now.’
“The guys were already expecting Mark on a scheduled stop that lap and then, of course, it was such a late call to get tires out. It looked remarkably reminiscent of last year [when Vettel suffered another troublesome pit stop] but they recovered tremendously well and, thankfully with the buffer we had, we did not lose with either car any positions.”
Despite the time that both cars lost, Vettel and Webber were able to rejoin still ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
“It was obviously not the guys’ cleanest day in the pitlane, which we can let them off every now and again because they’ve had a superb season in the pitlane,” said Webber. “When I braked for the pitlane line, I looked on the big screen and I could see that Seb was in the box, saw on the TV that he was pitting and I thought, ‘I hope it’s a replay,’ but it wasn’t.
“It was obviously a complete surprise, uncharacteristic of the team to do something quite tricky and risky, when there wasn’t a huge amount to risk. But it turns out obviously that there was an issue at the start of Seb’s stop which snowballed into me and then we had the little Spanish lion on the back of me again.”