Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was surprised Mercedes didn’t leave George Russell out on track late in the Dutch Grand Prix to try and help Lewis Hamilton win the race.
Max Verstappen won at home for the second consecutive year after two interruptions that led to unplanned pit stops, the second resulting in Red Bull switching the leader to soft tires and conceding track position to the Mercedes pair on relatively fresh mediums. However, Russell called for a stop of his own and also took on softs, returning that spot to Verstappen and leaving Hamilton exposed on a race restart 12 laps from the end.
“It was quite a complicated strategic race,” Horner said. “For us the two-stop going into the race was the faster race. We had the new set of tires with Max that we felt best strategically to use to make sure we got a good start and use in that first stint.
“That part all went to plan and then of course the VSC made life a little trickier because the pace of the Mercedes seemed pretty strong on the hard tyre. But they had a huge stint to do on it. At that point in time we were going to go probably back to the soft tire. We knew we’d probably concede track position but we had the pace with the offset.
“Then the Virtual Safety Car came out and we switched to the hard tires because of how we’d seen it performing which again just protected track position for Max. But then the bigger call came towards the end of the race when there was the full Safety Car where you’ve got your home driver leading in front of 105,000 people and you decide to pit him for the soft tires and concede track position behind two Mercedes.
“I was quite surprised that they didn’t leave George out strategically as a rear gunner for Lewis – when he pitted it gave a straight fight between Max and Lewis with a tire offset and by the time they came past us on the pit wall, Max was already alongside. And thereafter a matter of controlling the race.
“So, tactically a tough one but the pit wall made the right calls.”
And Horner says Red Bull was in a tough position against the Mercedes pair when the Safety Car came out as he had to choose to either lead on slower tires or try and overtake on fastest ones.
“I think we saw that the pace the Mercedes on the medium, versus ourselves on the hard, we felt that the warm-up, we’d just have Max exposed. So better to go attacking than trying to hang on at the front. My biggest concern was they would be two against one. But then when George seemed to pit himself, that then freed up a one-on-one fight with Max versus Lewis.”