Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says Max Verstappen’s tire had around 50 cuts in it when he pitted in the closing stages of the British Grand Prix.
Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas suffered a left-front tire failure three laps from the finish of Sunday’s race, promoting Verstappen into a comfortable second place. Red Bull then opted to take a free pit stop for soft tires to get the fastest lap, but Lewis Hamilton’s final-lap puncture meant Verstappen would have overtaken the Mercedes to win if he avoided a similar issue. However, Horner says it was likely Verstappen would also have had a failure, and doesn’t see it as a missed victory opportunity.
“I don’t know really because the tire that came off the car had about 50 little cuts in it,” Horner said. “It had been through debris, and if we’d have stayed out we could have lost a second position with the same failure as Lewis, Carlos Sainz and Bottas. So it was right on the limit. We’ll be grateful for what we’ve got rather than what we’ve potentially lost.
“You can either look at the glass being half empty or being half full. We benefited from Bottas’ issues, even then they had a faster car today. We very nearly had the same issues ourselves. If Hamilton had had the issue a lap before we’d all be patting ourselves on the back. It’s never good to benefit from others’ misfortune, but I don’t think we can be upset with what happened.”
The end result leaves Verstappen 36 points adrift of Hamilton in the drivers’ championship, and Horner said the retirement in Austria is proving costly.
“That first race is expensive,” he said. “If you remember, at the time he was splitting the two Mercedes then, as well. That was expensive, the DNF we had then. We need to find more performance, because they simply are just quicker than us at the moment. Yes, we’re being sharp on race strategy and his race craft; we can keep ourselves in the mix. On outright pace they have a very dominant car at the moment, and we need to try and close that gap.
“I’m sure they’re managing different parts of the race, but we have a pretty good indication of what they’re doing. They obviously have a very good car and we were probably within 0.3 or 0.4 of a second of them (at Silverstone) as an average. It’s now our challenge to reduce that gap further, especially at venues like this.”