Red Bull ‘could have done better’ to beat Hamilton on strategy

Max Verstappen felt Red Bull was not aggressive enough in its strategy during Sunday’s Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix, feeling it “could have done much better” to beat Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen scored a comfortable second place finish at the Bahrain International Circuit on Sunday, spending all but two laps of the race running in P2.

Verstappen sat around five seconds behind Hamilton nearing the first round of pit stops, but couldn’t try and get the undercut after Mercedes called in the race leader before Red Bull could stop.

It denied Verstappen a chance to get the undercut, while a slow second stop meant Hamilton could react one lap later without facing any pressure.

Red Bull ultimately pitted Verstappen for a third time in the closing stages to clinch the bonus point for the fastest lap, as well as covering off a potential late safety car.

Verstappen expressed his disappointment in the strategy after the race, believing the team should have brought him in for a first stop earlier to try and get the undercut on Hamilton.

“We weren’t strong on strategy today,” Verstappen said.

“Firstly we should have stopped earlier on that first run. We let Mercedes stop earlier, which I don’t understand, so there they won two seconds or something over us.

“Then you have to try and close the gap on that hard tyre, which actually worked pretty good. So there I managed to retrieve one and a half or two seconds, in the beginning. Then you lose that again.

“We had that slow pitstop, and then we had a pitstop I didn’t fully get. Of course, for the fastest lap it was fine, but it can always happen that someone else goes faster.

“Also because we had a red flag and a safety car, then a three-stop would never have worked anymore.

“I don’t know why they did that. I’m not saying that we would have beaten them today, because we just didn’t have the pace.

“But we could have done much better as a team on strategy.”

Asked about Verstappen’s complaints after the race, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner explained that pitting him any earlier in the first stint would have dropped him into traffic.

“The problem is that Lewis was just that little bit too quick,” Horner said.

“Losing the first eight laps under safety cars and red flags, we went from what could have been an optimal three-stop more towards a two-stop.

“The field didn’t spread out as much as you would have wanted in the first stint, because losing those eight laps, so if we’d have pitted, we’d have pitted into traffic.

“I’m not sure what else we could have done really. I think that if we’d have pitted a bit earlier on the first stop, he would have had a couple of cars to pass, and we wouldn’t have been within the undercut. They would have been easily able to cover it.

“Unfortunately Mercedes just had that little bit too much pace and tyre life today.”

Mercedes was forced to be on guard to Red Bull as Verstappen had an additional set of fresh hard tyres spare over Hamilton.

It gave Red Bull the opportunity to swap Verstappen from medium to hard tyres under the safety car, but Horner said the team feared it would cost the Dutchman on the restart.

“We looked at that, but we were concerned about the start performance,” Horner said.

“Starting on the dirty side of the grid for the restart, we were concerned that we might give up further places rather than gain them.

“We did well to retain the position to Sergio [Perez] into the first corner. Our concern was by starting on the hard tyre, we’d give up a bit too much start performance.”

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