Drive to the grid helped Red Bull avoid Ferrari mistake

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says the way the soft tire worked on the way to the grid at the Hungarian Grand Prix taught his team to avoid making the same mistake as Ferrari.

Charles Leclerc went from leading after halfway to finish sixth when Ferrari put him on the hard tire in response to an early second stop from Max Verstappen, but the compound wasn’t suited to the conditions and cost Leclerc huge amounts of time. Horner says Red Bull would have been starting on that tire until driver feedback pre-race saw a switch that allowed Verstappen to take a stunning win from tenth on the grid.

“I think it’s right up there,” Horner said. “The start is the first time I’d seen him being cautious because he got himself a little bit pinched in the middle of the pack there. But thereafter, his pace and the way he managed the issues he had were phenomenal.

“We were going to start the race on the hard tire, because statistically that looked like our best race, but the drivers were struggling to generate temperature in the soft tire on the way to the grid, and so it felt ludicrous to be starting the race on a hard tire, particularly with some weather around.

“So we converted both drivers on the grid to the soft tire which committed us very much to a two-stop, but we made it work and it played out beautifully.”

And Horner admits there wasn’t a scenario that Red Bull had been predicting that would see Verstappen able to win, having been targeting the top six pre-race after a power unit issue in qualifying saw him start from the fifth row.

“Never. At this circuit our pre-race analysis was showing that if everything went right then fifth and sixth might be achievable. So to win from tenth on the grid was beyond all our expectations.

“And then when you throw in a clutch issue early in the race on Max’s car, which he was managing because the temperatures were getting a little out of control – that’s why we held him off the back of Carlos Sainz for a little while, and particularly after the first stop – but once we released him and got the clutch issue under control he had tremendous pace.

“Strategically we got the calls right. When I saw a white set of tires come out for Ferrari I thought ‘OK, we might actually be in with a chance of winning this race’.”