Red Bull struggled with 'black art' of tyre management in Portugal, says Horner
Max Verstappen’s almost customary place on the podium in Portugal was not helped by his tyre strategy, as Red Bull went in the opposite direction to Mercedes and Ferrari, according to team boss Christian Horner.
Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc all started on medium tyres on Sunday, meaning Verstappen's was the only car on softs in the top-four. Red Bull committed to that strategy in Q2 on Saturday and expected to see an advantage in the early part of the race but instead Verstappen struggled early on and dropped too far back to challenge Mercedes.
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“The tyres were a little bit of a black art,” Team Principal Christian Horner said. “I mean the soft tyre was difficult to get going, the medium tyre looked to be the best of all of the range, so I think with 20:20 hindsight if we could have done qualifying again we would have obviously looked to start on the mediums.
“Even so the soft at the start when it was damp was again difficult to get going compared to the medium. So Max hung on there on the first lap - Alex [Albon] lost some ground on the first lap - and then he was able to settle in and look after the tyres as best he could.
“He got pretty decent range, and then he got onto the medium and was much happier on that tyre but of course Mercedes were significantly up the road by that point in time. So P3 I think was the optimum for Max, obviously a more difficult afternoon for Alex.”
Verstappen wasn’t helped by a collision with Sergio Perez on the opening lap but Red Bull didn’t register any damage as a result of the incident, and he didn’t immediately lose any positions at that stage. The same couldn’t be said of Albon, with tyres again identified as the root cause of a tough race as he finished 12th after a two-stop strategy.
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“Obviously it’s been a difficult race for him so we need to look at all the data, all the information, try and understand why his tyre wear for example was significantly higher. Plenty to look at, plenty to understand, and he’ll need to bounce back in less than a weeks time.
“It was tyre wear [that caused a two-stop]. I think the left rear was pretty much down to the canvas. It was getting a little desperate and after inspection once it had come off the car it wouldn’t have got to the end of the race.”
Heading to Imola, Verstappen finds himself just 17 points off Valtteri Bottas for P3 in the standings. Will the Red Bull man be able to eclipse the Silver Arrow by the end of the season?