Despite a number of problems throughout Sunday, it was a dream result for Red Bull Racing as they secured a 1-2 at the Spanish Grand Prix, albeit with some team order controversy.
Before even heading to the grid, there was concerns on Max Verstappen’s car as they tried to fix the DRS problem that prevented him doing a final qualifying attempt.
They made it out of the pits with seconds to spare before it closed. Horner explained to MotorLAT and other media outlets what happened ahead of the start.
“Obviously we had a DRS issue that delayed us getting to the grid,” he stated.
“At that point we had no balance information really, no chance of a practice start. Both drivers got really good starts.”
“Things were settling down quite nicely, all the temperatures were under control because it was always going to be about tyres this race.”
After maintaining P2 in the early stages, Verstappen’s day got extremely complicated when he went off at turn 4 on lap 9, and ended up falling behind Russell and Perez.
Things got worse as it turned out his DRS wasn’t working fully and got stuck behind Russell, following the decision to allow Verstappen by Perez to attack the Mercedes.
“Then a massive gust of wind literally just drifted him wide into the gravel and that then dropped him down to 4th,” Horner explained.
“But before that, we could see that the DRS was working sometimes, and not on other occasions.
“So suddenly he’s back down the order, closed quickly on Checo, Checo released him to have a go at George and then obviously George was very robust in his defence, and without the benefit of a consistent DRS, it was very difficult for Max to make the pass. Eventually he got the job done.”
When Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari broke down whilst comfortably leading the race, it opened the door for Red Bull to use different strategies for their cars to beat Russell.
Verstappen’s DRS issues forced them to a three-stop strategy, as Perez went for two and overtook Russell on lap 31 for the lead. His blistering in pace on softs allowed him to overcut the Brit when he made his last stop at the end of lap 44.
“At that point we decided our best way to beat George was to try and give Max the tyre advantage and convert to a three-stop strategy. We were still undecided at that stage whether three versus two [was better],” Horner continued.
“Our tyres were in better condition than some of our rivals, but then of course the Ferrari retired… unfortunately for Leclerc.
“At that point we converted Max on to a three-stop that then put him out of sync with Checo. We managed to bag a pitstop over George and then of course he very quickly closed on Checo. At that stage there was a tyre delta of close to two seconds a lap.”
In the final stint, Verstappen had 6-lap fresher mediums than teammate Perez. The Mexican was asked to give up the lead as the Dutchman caught him rapidly.
Horner stated that he didn’t feel it made any sense to let them fight due to Verstappen’s DRS gremlins and the tyre advantage he held over Checo.
“So with temperatures, water temperatures, oil temperatures, the DRS that was intermittently working, it didn’t make any sense as a team to let them fight because it was an unfair fight anyway. As it turned out, we had to pit Checo for the end of the race anyway [to cover Russell]," he said.
“Both drivers worked together as a team and to get the maximum points today was hugely important on the day… unfortunately Ferrari had an issue.
“I spoke with him when he got out of the car and I think the problem is for any driver is that if they don’t have the clear overview of the strategy in front of them, it’s always going to be emotive to give up a lead.
“He played very much the team game. I think he understood clearly it wasn’t a like for like fight because the pace delta between the strategies was so great and that from a team point of view… for me it just didn’t make any sense, which was why we didn’t let the drivers get into a fight today.”