Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2021

Horner feared lapped Schumacher would cost Verstappen win on final lap

2021 United States Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner feared Max Verstappen was going to lose the lead of the United States Grand Prix on the final lap.

Verstappen had Lewis Hamilton bearing down on him rapidly as he lost precious time lapping Mick Schumacher’s Haas.

Hamilton had been unable to draw within DRS range of Verstappen but when the Red Bull driver lost three-tenths of a second lapping the Haas, the Mercedes drew within range.

“It’s very difficult to factor into your strategy the backmarkers,” said Horner. “We lost a lot of time behind Yuki [Tsunoda] and then Mick Schumacher was quite costly on the last couple of laps.

“I thought that was going to cost us the victory because he held Max through the whole sector. But thankfully we did pick up the DRS on the start/finish straight, which at least gave Max a little bit of breathing room into turn one. But it certainly added to the stress on the pit wall.”

While Verstappen gained the benefit of DRS from lapping Schumacher, Hamilton wasn’t quite close enough to either to do the same, which gave the leader precious breathing space on the final lap.

Verstappen started the race from pole but lost the lead to Hamilton on the first lap. Although the Red Bull was quicker than the Mercedes during the first stint, as reported by both drivers, Verstappen was unable to pass Hamilton.

Red Bull therefore committed to an aggressive strategy, bringing Verstappen in early.

“I think we were quicker on the medium tyre and Max could see that Lewis was sliding around a lot and we were in danger of overheating our own tyres by just being stuck,” said Horner. “So we decided to take the gamble and bank some free air. It was then going to put us under pressure, for sure, at the end of the race.”

The team prevented Hamilton from running more than three laps longer than Verstappen at his first pit stop by bringing in Sergio Perez for his pit stop, forcing Mercedes to cover off the threat of the second Red Bull.

“Because Mercedes had run long, we were able to push them to change early on in the first stint by getting Checo in as well. But of course, they then had the ability to go long in that middle stint that gave them an eight-lap tyre advantage to the end of the race.”

Horner said Verstappen’s management of the “crucial, final five laps” when Hamilton had a significant tyre age advantage was “a phenomenal performance” and potentially one of Verstappen’s best ever.

Verstappen’s drive secured the team’s first win at the Circuit of the Americas since 2013, in which time Mercedes have taken five wins.

“It’s a big win for us at a circuit which obviously Lewis and Mercedes have been so strong at in the hybrid era,” said Horner.

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2021 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

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...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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17 comments on “Horner feared lapped Schumacher would cost Verstappen win on final lap”

  1. What? Like Tim O’Glock style?

  2. But that drs trigger he got off Schumacher was clutch. That may have been the race right there because it saved verstappen maybe 2 tenths from a tow down the front straight to Hamilton.

    1. Apparently you and me both were the only ones noticing that.
      Without that DRS, Max would’ve get caught, surely.

    2. To me it appeared as if Schumacher did actually cost Verstappen a little bit of time to Hamilton, but the DRS Max got off the back of Mick negated that time loss. So I think had the Haas not been there, the result would still have been the same in the end.

  3. I’m still amazed Yuki Tsunoda didn’t get out of the way. Only a couple of weeks ago, he was saying he would hold up Hamilton to help Max and then this week, he keeps him behind for almost a full lap and costs him several seconds.

    Even though Max won so in the end it didn’t matter, I can’t imagine Yuki is going to be popular with the team this evening….

    1. Totally agree. Honda engine teams…. There are some selfish back markers out there, especially as pulling over would have made absolutely no difference to their finishing places at the back. Tsunoda seems a bit odd, especially with all his excuses over the season.

    2. @petebaldwin, I didn’t notice him holding up Hamilton. Seb, on the other hand, yes.

    3. I may be wrong – but it looked like Max’s DRS wasn’t opening on the straights when he was behind Tsunoda. Does anyone know more about this?

  4. Wonder if it was Ocon in front how it would have panned out…

  5. I notice this wasn’t Max Lucky day as he lose a ton of time on to have overtaking cars in the S parts.

  6. The problem with backmarkers was extraordinary. They just don’t care anymore. F1 has a real issue there – either enforce them properly or just get rid of blue flags. Mexico and Brazil, with their twisty bits, and Abu Dhabi will probably also be really bad for this. Hopefully it doesn’t influence the championship outcome too much.

    1. Agreed, but in their defense.. There are several parts on this track (like the ss) its impossible to let someone pass easely.

    2. José Lopes da Silva
      25th October 2021, 12:26

      If you remember the races in Italy 1988 and Brazil 1990, it’s part of the game.

      1. I’m afraid I wasn’t even alive back then.

        1. We can remember races we weren’t alive for, since they’re pretty easy to find online, as long as we want to see them ofc!

  7. Got to admit I thought Schumacher had cost Verstappen the race at first, but that burst of DRS when Hamilton didn’t have it almost paid for the earlier pain with interest. Could be argued without the DRS boost Hamilton would have caught him so Schumacher both impeded and aided Verstappen in the end.

  8. I believe Raikkonen even got a black and white flag for holding up leader Verstappen.

    Very unlucky to lose 3-4 seconds in no time due to traffic. Thankfully it didn’t decide the outcome in the end.

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