Christian Horner explains Red Bull strategy call that cost Checo Perez lead in Zandvoort

After a great call to take intermediates, Checo Perez found himself leading the 2023 Dutch GP

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Christian Horner revealed that Max Verstappen’s undercut on Sergio Perez at the Dutch Grand Prix was to preserve the best result for the team as Red Bull won their latest Formula 1 race.

Perez chose to pit at the end of the opening lap as the rain began to fall, and managed to inherit the lead of the race once everyone responded.

The Mexican emerged 13 seconds ahead of Verstappen but was quickly reined in by the world champion. When the Dutchman was a handful of seconds behind, he was called in to pit, with his teammate following in the next lap as the Red Bulls swapped places.

Now 3.5 seconds behind Verstappen, Perez initially questioned the decision over the radio and following the race, Horner explained why it had to be that way.

“It’s very hard to make a call when it’s right on the edge,” Horner said to select members of the press, including Total-Motorsport.com, after the race.

“It was Sergio’s call that he wanted to pit and that paid dividends for him because he was the first one of the front cars to jump onto the inter, and Max came in at the end of the next lap.

“But Max’s pace as he came through the field was such that I think at one point he took seven seconds out of him [Perez] in a couple of laps and he was coming very fast.

“And you could see from [Alex] Albon that the circuit was coming alive for the slicks. So had we pitted Checo [Perez] first, they [Gasly and Alonso] would have both undercut Max, so we’d have gone from a 1-2 to a net 1-4.

“So we pitted Max first with the risk being that he’d undercut Checo but we’d end up with a 1-2 so it was a no brainer and that’s what we did.”

A tale of two Perez gambles

Perez pulled into the pits at the end of the opening lap as the rain began to fall, taking a gamble as if the rain was only brief, he would have needed to make an extra pit-stop to his competitors.

However the rain became torrential and the inter tyre had a massive advantage over the dries, highlighted as Perez caught the group on the slicks before the end of the third lap.

The advantage was so great that once Verstappen finally pitted he emerged out behind his teammate, having lost track position and over 13 seconds of lap-time.

So, when the rain fell again late into the race, it was an obvious choice for Perez to try to repeat the strategy that gave him the lead after four laps. Unfortunately, he sped in the pit-lane and earned himself a five-second time penalty.

At the restart he could not pass Alonso and later finished behind Pierre Gasly as he came home in fourth place.

“It was a great call,” Perez added. “But it turned out to be not so great in the end. It’s a shame that we ended up losing the podium.”

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