The Red Bull Formula 1 team has defended the pitstop that turned out to potentially cost Max Verstappen British Grand Prix victory, saying he was also suffering from tyre damage that might’ve caused punctures like those that struck Mercedes.
Verstappen spent most of the race in a lonely third behind a commanding Mercedes 1-2, but gained second when Valtteri Bottas suffered a puncture three laps from the end.
Red Bull immediately brought Verstappen in for a pitstop of his own, only for leader Hamilton’s left-front tyre to also go down on the last lap.
Hamilton limped across the line just under six seconds ahead of Verstappen, who would’ve been primed to pick up the victory had he not made his stop.
But Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said his team had sufficient tyre concerns of its own that it had to play it safe.
“We had vibrations, we saw Bottas’s puncture, we could see we’d got a big groove on our tyre, so we elected to pit and put the soft on, try to bag the point for the fastest lap as well,” Horner explained to Sky Sports F1.
“The tyre that’s come off Max’s car has actually got a deep groove and quite a lot of lacerations on it as well, so there’s no guarantee that he would’ve got to the end of the race, and then it would’ve been a completely different story again.
“Lewis rode his luck and they had a great car today and he managed to get it home. Second place is still a very good result for us.”
Verstappen himself saw the outcome as “lucky and unlucky’.
“They were of course in the race too quick and the tyres at one point they didn’t look great – like 10 laps to go, so I was already on the radio like ‘guys, the right front doesn’t look very pretty.’
“Then of course Valtteri got a puncture so straight away I came on the radio and said I’m going to back it off. Then they boxed me to go for the fastest lap and then of course unfortunately, Lewis got a puncture himself, but you know, I’m very happy with second, it’s a very good result for us again.”
Horner was surprised Mercedes suffered the punctures because he felt the W11s had been taking it easy at the front.
“I think they managed to get themselves sufficiently up the road and then they were controlling the pace,” Horner said.
“We can see that because the front tyre was a bit of a concern here, they were taking it easy in Turn 1 [Abbey], Turn 2 [Farm], Turn 9 [Copse], more so than we were.
“So we were surprised to see them get into the issue that they had. We were already thinking about a stop 10 laps towards the end.”
In addition to the two Mercedes, Carlos Sainz Jr’s McLaren also suffered a left-front puncture in the final laps.
Horner speculated that there might have been “a bit of debris out there” rather than the issue being caused by tyre problems in themselves.