Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took a spectacular victory from pole at his home Grand Prix yesterday. His win was hard fought however as rivals Mercedes utilised their advantage with second driver Bottas to employ an aggressive split strategy. Hamilton was set to make use of a two stop strategy while Bottas put the pressure on Verstappen with a long first stint.
The split strategy led to both title contenders pitting early for their first stop, leaving Bottas in the lead of the race. Verstappen’s tyre advantage allowed him to swiftly pass Bottas and solidify his lead ahead of Hamilton soon after the pit stop phase.
After Mercedes' questionable decision to pit Hamilton early for his second stop left him stuck in traffic, Verstappen responded one lap later and emerged from the pits ahead of the traffic as well as the seven time world champion to secure his first home victory to the delight of the fans.
Discussing Mercedes race strategy, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said Bottas’ strategy was not on the team's radar as they looked at the bigger picture, being the close title fight. He said the team were willing to accept losing the race win in order to finish ahead of Hamilton.
“Our focus was on Lewis,” Horner stated. “He's the closest competitor, so he was the one we had to choose between the two, even if there was a risk of conceding the race.
“It was important to score those points against Lewis.”
Horner went on to praise Verstappen’s efficient pass on Bottas, highlighting it as the critical point in the fight. Had Verstappen been help up by Bottas he may have been under pressure from Hamilton's undercut. Verstappen’s win sees him regain the championship lead with a slender three point advantage over Hamilton.
“We expected them [Mercedes] to split this strategy, which they did,” he said. “They had two cars in play, so going aggressive with Lewis, and long with Valtteri.
“Because the two stop was the faster race, the crucial part of it was to make sure that we repassed Valtteri immediately. And Max did that.
“That then opened up opportunities to make the second half of the race much more manageable. If he had spent a lot of laps behind Valtteri, that could have exposed us to the undercut.”