Red Bull strategy chief Schmitz reveals how team masterminded Verstappen's comeback victory in Budapest
Red Bull's principal strategy engineer Hannah Schmitz has provided some insight into how the team helped Max Verstappen go from starting in 10th to standing on the top step of the podium in Hungary – a victory she called “one of the best of the season.”
Starting in 10th and 11th on the grid, Verstappen and Sergio Perez strapped on a set of soft tyres as they looked to make their way through the grid. And speaking on Sky Sports’ Any Driven Monday show, Schmitz revealed that starting the race on the softs was not the original plan.
“So, because we were starting out of position, one of the maybe more classic strategies to do is to start on the harder tyre and go much longer particularly with overtaking being much difficult in Hungary – so that was our plan,” Schmitz revealed.
“But we had also actually talked a lot pre-race about if the conditions are a bit damp and very cool as they might have been, that we could consider the soft tyre as the alternative because that might be better in those conditions and the laps to the grid both drivers were very vocal about having hardly any grip even though they were already on the soft tyre."
Schmitz added: “The race engineers were like 'we don’t think the hards are a good idea', we all had a long discussion about it with Christian as well and decided to change to the soft tyres. There was a little bit of rain in the air as well so really that was better the tyre for that condition.
“Our concern was whether we could make enough progress in that first stint to make it worth it but obviously both drivers made great progress, so it really was.”
When asked about the chain of command within the team to make such a late call on the strategy, Schmitz explained: “We are all very much a team, so throughout the weekend it’s very collaborative with listening to everybody’s different opinions and points of view because it’s not always just about the numbers and the data.
“The drivers have a lot of feeling as well in the car, so we try to take that on board, take on board what the race engineers… they might looking at different data to the strategist, so taking all that information on board and we discuss everything but at the end of the day it is a strategy call, so we make the final call, but we try and just make the final call and use as much information as we can to make those decisions."
The victory in Hungary was Red Bull’s ninth victory of the season, with Verstappen accounting for eight of those wins himself. But Schmitz revealed that a ninth win was not the aim at the start of the day, making the result "all the sweeter".
“Actually, it was one of the best [wins] of the season,” she said. “Just because I think starting P10 in Hungary was not something that we were expecting at all. I was thinking maybe we might just get on the podium, P3, P4 was kind of the best thing that was coming out of the simulations.
“So, it was extremely exciting. It wasn’t really until the end of the race that I thought 'whoa we actually could win this!' So, it felt all the sweeter from where we started."