It wasn’t necessary, but the red bull revealed that she was prepared to guide Max Verstappen to sacrifice the victory of Netherlands GP in Formula 1 for Valtteri Bottas if it meant that the Dutchman would finish ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
Mercedes employed different strategies for its drivers at Zandvoort on Sunday as a way to try to prevent Verstappen’s victory. Hamilton made two stops, with a more aggressive performance, while Bottas tried to stick with just one.
Mercedes’ expectation was that this division would leave Red Bull in a difficult situation, having to choose which one to cover, which could be misled.
Halfway through the race, with Bottas leading the grid, there was a period when it was possible to think the Finn might fight for victory. But his hopes were dashed when Verstappen passed him at the end of the main straight.
Verstappen’s thrilling home victory was sealed when Mercedes brought Hamilton to the second stop looking for the undercut, but the seven-time champion ended up slipping into traffic, preventing a good pace to pass the Dutchman on his tire change.
Christian Horner, head of Red Bull, revealed that what Bottas chose to do in the race was never on the team’s radar. As it was a close battle between Verstappen and Hamilton, the important thing was to finish ahead of the rival.
And he said that even if there had been a pace for Red Bull to lose the race victory to finish ahead of Hamilton, he would have accepted that option, thinking for the title.
“Our focus was on Lewis. He’s the closest competitor, so he was our choice between the two, even if there was a risk of giving up the win. It was important to score against Lewis.”
Horner said the critical moment in the race, when luck turned to Verstappen, was when the Dutchman wasted no time in passing Bottas. If I had gotten stuck behind him, it would have opened up the risk of a one-stop strategy working or Hamilton seizing the chance to stop again in pursuit of the undercut.
“We were already waiting for Mercedes’ strategies, which they did. They had two cars in the game, so they would go aggressive with Lewis and conservative with Valtteri. Because two stops was the quickest choice, and the crucial thing was to secure an overtaking at Valtteri immediately. And Max did it.”
“It opened up opportunities to make the second half more manageable. If he stayed too long behind Valtteri, it could expose us to undercut.”
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