Horner brushes off Hamilton slow out-lap as ‘part of the game’ after Perez misses out on final Q3 run
Sergio Perez missed out on a chance to log a final lap in qualifying as the Red Bulls found themselves crawling behind Lewis Hamilton at the end of Q3 and the chequered flag flew too soon for the Mexican – but Team Principal Christian Horner said he had no issue with what he dubbed “gamesmanship” by Hamilton on Saturday in Hungary.
Mercedes will occupy the front-row in Hungary on Sunday after Hamilton set a benchmark of 1m15.419s in qualifying, but when the Briton emerged from the pits for a second run in Q3, he had the two Red Bulls behind him and proceeded to set a 1m57.356s out-lap. Hamilton denied he deliberately held his rivals up amid perceived criticism from the likes of former F1 driver Romain Grosjean, but Horner saw it differently.
“It’s a bit of gamesmanship,” said the Red Bull chief. “I mean, Lewis got a hell of a lap in the bank and obviously he’s just backing things up because he doesn’t want to give our cars a clean run, but it’s his right to do that; he’s got track position, so we haven’t got a major issue, so it’s all about tomorrow now.”
Asked if his drivers would have repeated the same slow out-lap, Horner said: “I think we’d have probably focused on the preparation of our tyre because you can see his lap time was nowhere near his qualifying time, but he was obviously more interested with what was going on behind, but that’s part of the game.
“I think we take encouragement that we’re as close as we are and then we’ve just got to take the fight to them tomorrow,” he added, noting that Red Bull will start on soft tyres while Mercedes have the slower but more durable medium compounds on Sunday.
Perez, who was cut off by the chequered flag after he emerged behind Hamilton and team mate Max Verstappen at the end of Q3, was frustrated to miss out on a final chance to improve his lap from P4 and maintained he and the team thought there was enough time to get around the circuit for another run.
“At the time we felt we had plenty of margin to go through,” he said. “Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. That meant I basically lost my final attempt. I had a good amount of time left in the car…
“Yes, it’s a big shame, and at the end we have a good starting position for tomorrow but we know Mercedes are going to be really strong and I really hope tomorrow we are able to put a lot of pressure onto them,” he added.
Red Bull sit just four points ahead of Mercedes but just one row behind when the lights go out on Sunday as they aim to carry their championship lead into the summer break.