Horner explains Red Bull strategy that cost Verstappen Azerbaijan GP lead

Sergio Perez inherited the lead of the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix thanks to the safety car and went on to win from Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen

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Christian Horner explained that with hindsight Red Bull would’ve waited to pit Max Verstappen under Nyck de Vries‘ safety car at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and prevented Sergio Perez from jumping the team leader.

De Vries crashed his AlphaTauri on lap nine but initially the stewards only put out yellow flags and Red Bull immediately pitted Verstappen, before the safety car was called meaning Perez emerged from his pitstop in a race lead that he never relinquished.

“You never expected that to go to a safety car,” Horner told reporters after the race in Baku. “So obviously, 20/20 hindsight we’d have just done one more lap and gone from there.

“But you just don’t know at that point whether Charles [Leclerc] is going to pit and then you suddenly he jumps both. From a strategy point of view it was the optimum time to take the stop.

“On De Vries, the glimpse that we got, all four wheels were on the car, he hadn’t hit the barrier and the engine was running, it looked like he’d select reverse and carry on.

“The problem is we didn’t really have the visibility of De Vries, there was a quick shot of him and it was just a black set of lines, looked like he’d outbraked himself, gone straight on and hadn’t hit the barrier.

“So usually, if you see a car in the barriers here it’s a safety car but there was no sign of him having hit the barrier.

“It was only subsequently on the replays that we were able to see a track rod that was broken.”

Red Bull were unlucky

The Red Bulls of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen had contrasting weekends at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix | Mark Thompson/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

It could’ve gone even worse for Red Bull though, as Horner revealed they were close to pitting both drivers in a double-stack.

As it was, Verstappen was all over Leclerc at the restart and quickly passed the Ferrari, but Perez was extremely impressive in quickly pulling a gap to get out of DRS range, and held on from there.

“It was one of those things that sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t,” Horner said, “At one stage we were talking about gearing up for a double stop.

“As a collective it comes up the chain, the strategists are making a recommendation, the team manager’s controlling the pitstop and obviously looking at the circuit in terms of whether it’s a yellow or not, or safety car. The race engineer’s looking at it as well.”

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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