It’s easy to criticise Red Bull for losing British Grand Prix victory by bringing Max Verstappen in for a pitstop, but with the information the team had on hand it was the right call.
Verstappen had a big enough gap to come out comfortably in second place and still ahead of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari, and that represented a place gained given Valtteri Bottas had his problem.
Verstappen then set fastest lap and earned an extra point, so that’s 19 points out of the race, which is a good return for a Red Bull right now.
Going for the fastest lap on the soft tyres was no problem for Verstappen. The pit crew didn’t have to rush too much as Red Bull had a reasonable amount of time in hand and compared to the tyres he was driving on it would be like going from driving on ice to driving on a new qualifying tyre.
He also knew no one else would be trying for it after they had seen what happened to Bottas and Carlos Sainz Jr. What happened to Lewis Hamilton would just confirm the potential problem.
In the heat of the moment, the Red Bull pitwall didn’t know if it was just a puncture or a structural failure for Bottas and probably felt that the tyres on Verstappen’s car were past their sell-by date.
Remember, everyone had stopped early under the safety car and Verstappen had taken hards at the same time as Bottas, so his Pirellis were the same age.
Silverstone in the past has been a tyre killer with so many fast corners, and with the loads these cars are producing on this track nothing has changed – if anything it’s harder on the tyres than ever.
If I had been on the pitwall in that same situation, I would have made the same call.
You do need to react when something else happens outside of your own team. It’s easy to be blinkered and just pay attention to yourself but at that time there were 16 other cars out there and each one can add to your data bank.
In this case, tyre condition was the key and you need to compare that to where you think you are with your tyres and take it seriously if others are having problems. Two laps from the end of the race, Hamilton was pretty happy with his tyres – then look what happened.
I spent a couple of years in IndyCar racing when you could pit during yellow flags and at racing speeds, so with lap times around 20 seconds on short ovals you had to be prepared for anything.
You didn’t have time to think so you needed to know where exactly your car was on the lap. The driver could react with about a quarter of a lap before the pit entry, so in effect you had a maximum of 15 seconds since they last went past to make the call or they would be past the pit entry.
I took that same mental strategy to Formula 1, so always tried from lap to lap to be prepared for anything. In my book, you were always in a position to react, it might not have been the right reaction but at least you weren’t asleep on the pitwall.
Yes, I would have kicked myself for it for a while afterwards having made that call Red Bull did today, but then hindsight is always 20-20.
Then you’d accept that 19 points is a pretty good haul especially as your main competition for championship position – Bottas – didn’t score a single point.