Intermediate tyre gamble was ‘worth taking but it didn’t pay off’, says Horner


Christian Horner - Formula 1 - 2018 German GP
Credit: Red Bull Content Pool (Mark Thompson/Getty Image)

Christian Horner stood by Aston Martin Red Bull Racing‘s decision to fit intermediate tyres on Max Verstappen‘s car, despite the rain shower failing to worsen.

Verstappen finished in a comfortable fourth at the German Grand Prix, seven seconds away from race winner Lewis Hamilton and 19 seconds clear of fifth-placed man Nico Hülkenberg. The Dutchman proved to be the only source of points for Red Bull, with Daniel Ricciardo‘s miserable weekend concluding in engine failure on lap 27 out of 67. Ricciardo had been burdened with numerous grid penalties for changing engine components before the weekend, leaving him to start from last place, but the 29-year-old had started to make his way through the pack on the medium compound tyres.

In his post-race comments, Horner said that tyre condition was always going to be a “crucial factor” in deciding the race, as there was a consistent threat of rain running through the race.

“Max had a good start and was able to challenge Kimi [Räikkönen] on the opening laps,” said Horner.

Things quickly settled down as the tyres were going to be a crucial factor in the overall race strategy. Meanwhile, Daniel was making good progress from the back of the grid after incurring his engine penalties.

“At that point, there was a threat of rain but it was difficult to predict exactly when it would come. Unfortunately, on lap 27 Daniel’s engine failed, which is particularly disappointing alongside the penalties that he had already incurred.”

Horner explained the decision to call Verstappen into the pits for intermediates, saying that a number of cars had been skating wide – particularly at the sodden Turn 6 hairpin – and they thought the risk was worth taking. Verstappen enjoyed a healthy buffer to the Haas F1 Team‘s Kevin Magnussen at the time, but the track conditions and disappearing rain meant that the compound overheated. Cutting their losses, Red Bull put soft tyres back on the 20-year-old’s car just two laps later.

Verstappen did have a chance to latch onto the leading pack when Sebastian Vettel crashed at the Sachskurve on lap 51 from the lead, triggering a Safety Car.

“Max was on a one stop strategy running in P4, it started to rain and with a couple of cars running wide, including Max, we decided to take a gamble and pit him for the intermediate tyre,” Horner added.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t rain enough and the inter tyre got burnt up so Max had to pit again for the soft tyre. From the position we were in with no threat from behind, the gamble was worth taking but it didn’t pay off this time.

“The Safety Car then bunched the field up meaning that Max crossed the line in fourth which is about where we were on pace today.”

Red Bull lost ground to both Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport in the Constructors’ Championship, and stand 99 points adrift of new leaders Mercedes heading into next weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, the last race before Formula 1‘s summer break, an event that they hold high hopes for.