Horner explains the rationale behind Verstappen’s pit stop
Red Bull Racing’s strategic gamble paid off as Sergio Perez emerged victorious after Max Verstappen’s ill-timed pit stop. Just moments before a safety car was deployed, Verstappen made a crucial pit stop from the leading position, which ultimately handed the race lead to his teammate Perez.
Christian Horner has justified calling Max Verstappen into the pits from the leading position just moments before a safety car was deployed, resulting in teammate Sergio Perez taking the lead and ultimately winning the race.
On the 10th lap, Verstappen was in the lead when Nyck de Vries hit the apex barrier at Turn 5, causing damage to his front-left suspension and leading him to leave his car partially on the Turn 6 run-off zone.
Red Bull Racing brought Verstappen into the pits during the same lap – he was leaving Turn 14 when the crash occurred, and as he entered the pit, the incident was still under localized yellow flags.
Perez, who was in close second at that moment, along with the farther Charles Leclerc, did not follow him into the pit lane. Shortly after Verstappen returned to the track, race control activated a safety car to retrieve De Vries’s stranded AlphaTauri.
Perez and Leclerc seized the opportunity provided by the slower pace to make their pit stops at the end of lap 11, both overtaking the previous leader Verstappen.
Red Bull Racing’s team principal, Christian Horner, explained, “We didn’t have clear visibility of De Vries; we saw a quick glimpse of him and just black tire marks. It appeared he had outbraked himself.
“Since all four wheels were still on the car, the engine was running, and he hadn’t hit the barrier, we assumed he would select reverse and continue. We never anticipated a safety car.
“Typically, if you see a car in the barrier, it’s a safety car, but there was no indication that it had struck the barrier. Only later, through replays, it became evident that a track rod was broken.
“Of course, in hindsight, we would have completed one more lap and proceeded from there.”
Horner also mentioned that Verstappen was approximately in his optimal pit stop window, particularly as the championship leader was experiencing worse tire degradation than anticipated on the medium compound.
“We chose to pit Max since he was beginning to have issues with the rear tires on his car, and Checo was right behind him,” Horner said. “So from a strategy standpoint, it seemed like the perfect time to make the pit stop.
“Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t.”
Although luck played a part, Pérez seemed to possess the speed needed to secure the race victory on his own merit. He had closed the gap to DRS range of Verstappen before the safety car was deployed and managed to maintain his lead over his teammate for 38 laps after the race resumed.
Horner emphasized that the Mexican driver, now just six points behind Verstappen in the championship standings, had truly earned the win.
“Checo is definitely living up to his ‘king of the streets’ nickname,” Horner remarked. “He got a bit fortunate with the safety car timing, but once in the lead, he built up to nearly a four-second lead at one point and controlled the race.
“He then had to perform. With Max Verstappen right behind you, there’s no taking it easy.
“He seized his opportunity and turned it into an impressive victory.
“They were both pushing each other hard… but we allowed them to compete all the way through. That was always the plan entering the race.
“All credit goes to Checo, who drove exceptionally well today.”
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