Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Zandvoort, 2021

Verstappen’s immediate pass on Bottas was essential for Dutch GP win – Horner

2021 Dutch Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says Max Verstappen passing Valtteri Bottas immediately after catching him was crucial to their Dutch Grand Prix victory.

Verstappen led the race from the start but pitted in response to Lewis Hamilton’s early stop, allowing Bottas into the lead. Mercedes opted to keep Bottas out to split their strategy in an attempt to attack the Red Bull driver, but Verstappen was able to pass Bottas with the advantage of fresher tyres and DRS along the pit straight.

Horner says that Verstappen’s ability to dispatch the Mercedes without delay was the key factor in neutralising the threat posed by the second car.

“We expected them to split the strategy, which they did,” Horner says. “Obviously, they had two cars in play, so going aggressive with Lewis along with Valtteri.

“The crucial part of the race for Max – because the two-stop was the faster race – was to make sure that we re-passed Valtteri immediately. And he did that. That then opened up opportunities to make the second half of the race much more manageable, whereas if he’d have spent a lot of laps behind Valtteri, that could’ve opened us up to an undercut.”

Once ahead of Bottas, Verstappen was never headed again throughout the rest of the race, taking a home victory to the delight of the Dutch fans in attendance at the Zandvoort circuit. Horner praised his driver’s performance under the pressure of expectation from the home crowd.

“The atmosphere here has been outstanding,” Horner says. “I think in my entire career I’ve never had so much support for a driver. It’s been like being at a nightclub for three days.

“I think the way that Max has handled that pressure, we’ve seen it with other drivers at their home races – sometimes it can get to them. But I think the intensity and the noise is just insane. I think the way he’s dealt with that, he’s just focused on his job, and the way that he’s dealt with that I’m very, very proud of.”

Red Bull were at risk of being vulnerable to Mercedes’ strategy in large part because Sergio Perez had started from the pit lane after being eliminated in Q1 on Saturday. Despite the disappointment of qualifying, Horner says he was pleased with Perez’s rise through the field in the race.

“I think unfortunately, Checo, not only did we take the penalties, but then a massive flat-spot and then he had to take another stop and go onto a less-optimal strategy,” says Horner.

“So I actually think his drive back through the field was fantastic. He was the only car I could see really overtaking and to come back there into the points – important points for us today – was a very strong race for him.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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29 comments on “Verstappen’s immediate pass on Bottas was essential for Dutch GP win – Horner”

  1. Like Noah in the Red Sea (oh, wait)

    Reply moderated
  2. There was a small window around lap 30 to 33 where Lewis closed down the gap to 1 second because Max caught some traffic. That was when Mercedes should have pitted Hamilton to undercut Max and gain track position on him then pit Bottas later to delay Max little bit.
    I don’t know how Mercedes strategists miss these opportunities when a normal fan like me could clearly spot it Live. As soon as the gap came to 1 second, Mercedes should have pitted Lewis for the second time. They already had a guaranteed 2nd place. Get your act together Mercedes strategists.

    1. The problem for the merc strategy is that they can split the strategy but are never allowed to let bottas win.
      That is a self inflicted handicap that limit the options.

      1. @erikje

        “they can split the strategy but are never allowed to let bottas win”

        If I read your post correctly; While there could have been certain issues to improve Merc’s strategy to win, not giving Bottas a chance to win was certainly not one of them. It became immediately obvious Bottas had no where near the race pace of VER & HAM, his gap times between the leaders after a couple of laps was huge (8″ slower by lap 10), becoming immediately apparent that he had no game against them and because of this, his strategy for the team was regulated to support Lewis in any way possible (but didn’t help much) while also helping the team garner as many crucial constructor team points as possible against RB.
        He’s almost 100 points behind Lewis, it was also not really going to matter one way or another if he earned 1 point for fastest lap but very important to Lewis and the very close points fight with VER.
        It must be very painful for Bottas to endure (don’t blame him) but pretty obvious from a teams standpoint on what the roles are and what’s needed to be done. Perez also falls into this role; what do they say: “There’s no i in team”

    2. @amg44 I thought that too at the time but I wasnt sure where he’d come out. I know top 2 were way ahead but 2 stops ahead of Gasly? not sure…

    3. @amg44 I was thinking something similar. At around mid-distance Mercedes could have pitted Hamilton if they were in a really aggressive mood. However, it’s unclear if the tires would have lasted or if so much tire management was needed that the undercut wouldn’t have worked. Or that the tire advantage was not enough to catch Verstappen in case he didn’t pit. At mid-distance Verstappen increased his pace to pull a gap, so by then the undercut would no longer work.

      I think Hamilton’s first stop was too early actually. It seemed Verstappen’s tires were dropping off, so it was perhaps wiser to stay out longer and wait for Verstappen’s stop.

      1. Hamilton was experiencing a lot of sliding on corner exit on the Softs. Extending the first stint would have been Russian Roulette.

    4. @amg44

      There was a small window around lap 30 to 33 where Lewis closed down the gap to 1 second because Max caught some traffic.

      That can’t have been as Hamilton said Verstappen got through them like he was Noah.

    5. @amg44

      There was a small window around lap 30 to 33 where Lewis closed down the gap to 1 second because Max caught some traffic. That was when Mercedes should have pitted Hamilton to undercut Max and gain track position on him then pit Bottas later to delay Max little bit.
      I don’t know how Mercedes strategists miss these opportunities when a normal fan like me could clearly spot it Live. As soon as the gap came to 1 second, Mercedes should have pitted Lewis for the second time. They already had a guaranteed 2nd place. Get your act together Mercedes strategists.

      He would have come out just behind Leclerc. Probably would have passed him in a relatively quick manner, but enough to make him lose time and give Verstappen the chance to remain ahead in the pit.

      Also, that would leave Lewis vulnerable with regards to his tyres. Given how Max still had a new set of hards vs Lewis with near-mint set of mediums, they probably did not want to go THAT early, as it would make life for Lewis even harder towards the end of the race. Sitting duck kind of situation.

      1. @mattds

        Also, that would leave Lewis vulnerable with regards to his tyres. Given how Max still had a new set of hards vs Lewis with near-mint set of mediums, they probably did not want to go THAT early, as it would make life for Lewis even harder towards the end of the race. Sitting duck kind of situation.

        Overtaking is not particularly easy on this track, there was room to do some heroics defending. It was worth a try, actually.

        Reply moderated
  3. The strategy battle was intense. I do wonder if Red Bull actually bluffed Mercedes with all the ‘all you got for 5 laps, great laps, keep it up’ etc, to provoke Mercedes into trying the undercut which then worked and was the key to the win.

    Because otherwise Mercedes would have done a counter strategy and could easily have won with their track position and the top speed advantage doing one stop for example.

    But maybe even the whole ‘5 laps all you got was a ploy’, and they never planned to come in regardless, but were always going to mirror Mercedes.

    1. Ahah, would be funny if they did, of the series making mercedes taste their own medicine “my tyres are dead”.

      1. Yeah Hamilton doing was doing a heck of an encore performance of “my tires are dead, man”. It was the remix lol. They had to try something.

  4. But Red Bull fighting with one car against two has got to stop. Somebody must take charge of Perez and just focus on him to do decent Q3s. Forget the race pace, forget optimizing qually, going out last minute stuff. Just get him to around top 5 ever single race.

    1. ..or better yet, get Alonso.

      1. Agree! Alonso-verstappen would be a flaming driver pairing, I suggested it years ago, back then it’d have been alonso’s experience combined with verstappen’s speed, now verstappen is experienced too. However more than getting alonso, the important thing is that they extended perez’s contract too soon, he wasn’t convincing me and on average is now doing even worse than he was.

        1. @esploratore1

          Agree! Alonso-verstappen would be a flaming driver pairing, I suggested it years ago, back then it’d have been alonso’s experience combined with verstappen’s speed, now verstappen is experienced too.

          Getting Alonso is a sure good-bye to team orders. Would Red Bull be ballsy enough to do it? Let them both fight for the championship freely until one is mathematically out of contention? Too good to be true.

          Reply moderated
      2. If RBR gets Alonso it will be a death sentence to mercedes. I can’t think of anyone better than Alonso who can go alongside Max.

        1. TurboBT

          If RBR gets Alonso it will be a death sentence to mercedes. I can’t think of anyone better than Alonso who can go alongside Max.

          Yeah, they’re better getting someone like him, given that Mercedes will finally promote Russell. It’s officially half announced now.

          Reply moderated
  5. Alonso has just signed to drive for Alpine for 2022. After that Red Bull should get him. There are no other options to change the unequal fight at the front.

    1. Red Bull are still sore about Fernando dismissing them when they approached him in 2008. They will not give him the seat, even though it would be great for F1.

      1. @spafrancorchamps
        What would Verstappen think of having a teammate like Alonso? I remember when he was leaving Formula 1 both Verstappen and Hamilton reacted not with the highest enthusiasm possible when asked about this perspective. Would something have changed now that he’s back and there’s a shortage of experienced racers available? Nevertheless, Fernando himself said he’d be pleased to share a team with Max.

        Reply moderated
      2. @spafrancorchamps According to Horner, it was they who dismissed Alonso when they saw his demands. The attitude was surely that he needed them more than they needed him so he should accept whatever, but the opposite has turned out to be reality. Imagine campaigning with two Red Bulls consistently on the front rows now.

        1. @balue

          Imagine campaigning with two Red Bulls consistently on the front rows now

          Alonso and Verstappen breathing down Hamilton’s neck every race will make him retire before his contract’s ends.

      3. There is also the thing of Honda and Alonso they blocked him in the states and would block him to join Red Bull.

        Maybe in the future 2+ years he will have a chance.

        1. I forgot Alonsos history with Honda, they will never hire him. Things might change after 2022 after Honda is gone

        2. Alonso had more than a thing with McLaren and that didn’t prevent them joining up again

  6. Pretty rough weekend for Bottas. Everyone is talking about the least well-kept secret in the paddock: Russel to Merc because Bottas has lost his seat, getting told early on in the race that because of his pace he wasn’t in contention for a win despite being in third, being told to slow down to not take the fastest lap, and now Horner saying Max took the win only because Max passed him so easily. I’ve been a vocal critic of Bottas the last few years (I was a fan of his at Williams and excited when he joined Merc) but this has to be pretty rough. And not even any time to recover mentally because the next race is this weekend.

  7. How so? Hamilton was behind Verstappen anyway and clearly Bottas was already totally out of contention anyway at that point.

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