Red Bull Racing is a team known very well for their fastest pitstops on the entire grid. Setting the standard extremely hard for themselves and for others, many wondered what went wrong during the Spanish GP pitstop for Max Verstappen, that took way longer than usual, since the team was not prepared for it.
Verstappen came to the pits on lap 24, to switch his softs for mediums, but the stop was prolonged because the team did not have all of the tyres ready for the swap. It later turned out that the pitstop happened way earlier than the team would like it to happen, and that Verstappen came for the stop without being called in by the team.
As said by Christian Horner, the team principal of Red Bull Racing shortly after the race: “He called himself in. So we weren't expecting him, which is why the pits weren't ready. So that's why the stop was a second [longer]. I think the boys did a phenomenal job to recover so quickly [4.2s stop]. And we lost minimal time and managed to retain track position. So we managed to salvage it very well.”
Helmut Marko, the Red Bull’s motorsport advisor, said later during an interview with a German TV that the reason why Verstappen stopped early was due to a misunderstanding with his race engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase. As he said: “It was a misunderstanding. The race engineer had said: next lap. [Verstappen] thought this [lap], and somehow misunderstood. Then we only had the chance to look of going as long as possible over the distance with the tyres. It then became obvious that it wasn't going to work, so we just did damage limitation with the fastest lap.”
Later in the race Mercedes switched to a two-stop strategy, after they decided to keep Hamilton on track a little longer instead of pitting him immediately after Verstappen, and Christian Horner believes there is nothing the team could have done at that point in the race to stop Mercedes from winning it.
As he said: ”We got back the track position but they just looked like they had a quicker car today. They didn’t have the tyre wear and they were able to follow so closely, that just gave them all the options. It didn’t look they were going to pass Max on that strategy, so they had got nothing to lose by taking a pistol and going back into clean air. Of course it worked out for them today.”