Horner never doubted Hamilton would have to pit

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing with Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal; Dr Helmut Marko (AUT) Red Bull Motorsport Consultant; and Adrian Newey (GBR) Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer in parc ferme. 10.10.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Turkish Grand Prix, Istanbul
© XPB 

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says he never doubted that Lewis Hamilton would have to stop for a change of tyres before the end of the Turkish Grand Prix.

Despite coming out top in qualifying, Hamilton started Sunday's race from 11th place after incurring a ten place grid drop for taking a new engine. By the time the race leaders made their pit stops he was running in fourth behind Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc.

Hamilton initially resisted calls from the Mercedes pit wall to stop for a new set of intermediate tyres, with the aim of staying out to put pressure on Verstappen and keep ahead of Sergio Perez. But Horner was certain this was never going to work.

"I'm not on their pit wall so obviously difficult to comment, but I think it sounds like Lewis over-ruled the team," Horner told Sky Sports F1 after the end of the race.

"It's difficult to say," he added. "At one point you think, 'He's going to get to the end!' [But] from what we could see those tyres were looking pretty dangerous, so it was inevitable he was going to have to pit.

"Obviously the point that they pitted was to our maximum advantage," he explained. "At that point you could see that - with Charles as well - the tyres overheated, they blistered quite badly, then the pace is lost.

"For us, the crucial moment was when to pit Checo," he continued. "We could have left him out to keep holding Lewis. [Instead] we decided to pit him to make sure we had that track position, because we didn't believe those tyres would make it to the end of the race."

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B in parc ferme. 10.10.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Turkish Grand Prix, Istanbul

At one point Hamilton was heard to argue with his team that he should stay out in the hope that the dry line on track would develop to the point where he could switch to a set of slick tyres instead of more intermediates.

But Horner dismissed that as a realistic possibility. "From talking to the drivers, we're getting the feedback, you're looking at the tyres, looking at the amount of time to run - we never believed that we would get to slicks.

"These tyres had to go through a phase. You had to almost machine them down to get to that slick. It was about not not beasting them too early.

"That's why we went first with Max, and then with Checo we decided 'Okay let's bank the position', and then Lewis is going to have to pass him on track."

F1 tyre suppliers Pirelli agreed with Horner's assessment with Mario Isola saying it would have been a big gamble for Mercedes to keep Hamilton out for the full distance.

"Looking at the tyres after the race, I would say no or at least it was really at the limit," Pirelli's Head of F1 Mario Isola told Sky Sports F1. "It is a bit dangerous to push the boundaries like today.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing celebrate second and third place with the team in parc ferme. 10.10.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Turkish Grand Prix, Istanbul

"I fully understand that in a race condition they have to maximise the result," he acknowledged. "Every car is different, so the level of wear is different depending also during the race how much they push.

"But more or less the tyres were with exposed cords," he said. "The wear of the tyres, especially at the end of the race, they were running basically on the construction."

The late pit stop meant that Hamilton dropped down to fifth place behind Leclerc, handing third to Perez who duly joined Bottas and Verstappen on the podium.

"Checo did an amazing job today," noted Horner, saluting the job that the Mexican driver did in thwarting Hamilton's recovery drive at a crucial midpoint of the race.

Even so, today's result means that Mercedes have slightly extended their led over Red Bull in the constructors standings, even though Verstappen is back in front of the driver battle by six points from Hamilton.

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