Christian Horner says the Red Bull Racing pit wall left it to the drivers to decide when they made a pit stop for the intermediate tyre in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix, and Max Verstappen’s earlier stop paid dividends as the Dutchman claimed a second-place finish despite starting last.
However, team-mate Sergio Pérez lost a certain podium of his own by staying out a couple of laps longer, and the time lost as he struggled around an ever-increasingly wet track before pitting meant he fell to ninth in the final result.
Horner, the Team Principal at Red Bull, says Verstappen’s second place feels like a win after starting at the back of the field following an engine change, but the late weather change at the Sochi Autodrom showed how easy it was for drivers to go from hero to zero, particularly in the case of Pérez.
“Today’s result in recovering from twentieth to second is an amazing performance,” said Horner. “Our congratulations must go to Lewis [Hamilton] on his 100th victory, but second for us after taking our grid penalty feels like a victory.
“With six or seven laps to go it didn’t look like it was going to be possible. In tricky weather conditions like we had today, you can very easily come out looking like a hero or zero.
“It’s such a tough call knowing whether to pit or not and the drivers see and feel so much more out on track compared with the engineers on the pit wall, and so the decision was left to Max and Checo on stopping for inters or not.
“In the end Max got it right and nailed the call to come in, and benefitted massively as a result whilst Checo decided not to pit and ended up losing out significantly, but these things can happen and luck also has its part to play.
“You could see Sergio wasn’t alone with the guys out front that tried to brave it out being so close to the end of the race, but ultimately it didn’t work out.”
“I’m glad we’ve got our power unit penalty out of the way here”
Horner says it is pleasing to come away from the last two races – notoriously known as Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team tracks – with only a two-point deficit in the Drivers’ Championship, although the late race drama in Russia saw the team drop thirty-three points behind in the Constructors’ Championship.
However, he says everyone at Red Bull are enjoying the battle with Mercedes in 2021, and he hopes the team can return to winning ways in the Turkish Grand Prix in two weeks time.
“The last two venues have historically been very strong for Mercedes so to come away only two points behind in the Drivers’ Championship is positive, and I’m glad we’ve got our power unit penalty out of the way here and managed to recover with a podium,” he said.
“Everybody in the Team is really enjoying this championship, we’ve got ourselves back into a competitive position and it’s going to be all about these final seven races, getting the strategy right, having the pace, and penalties are going to play a role too. It’s going to be fascinating to see how it unfolds.
“Looking ahead to Turkey, it was an interesting race with the new surface last year. Hopefully it has weathered in now but we’re really looking forward to it and today’s result sets everything up in the championship up nicely. It’s going to be a phenomenal competition.”