Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022

“Aggressive” strategy Verstappen wanted wouldn’t have kept Ferrari behind – Horner

2022 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen believes Red Bull could have done a “better job” with their Bahrain Grand Prix strategy, but Christian Horner says the team just lacked pace.

Verstappen battled race winner Charles Leclerc throughout the 57 -lap race before retiring in the closing laps with a fuel pump problem. The pair had fought wheel-to-wheel multiple times after their first pit stops, after Red Bull almost executed a successful undercut of the Ferrari.

After coming close to undercutting Leclerc a second time after his second pit stop, Verstappen was heard expressing his frustration over team radio at being instructed by race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to “bring [his] tyres in gently” at the start of his stint.

“Okay, this is now two times that I take it easy on the out-lap when I could have easily been in front,” he later said over radio. “I’m never, ever doing it again.”

Speaking after the race, Verstappen reiterated his belief that he could have taken the lead of the race from the Ferrari if he had pushed more on his brand new tyres.

“First of all, I think the pace itself was not what I hoped for compared to Friday,” he said. “But nevertheless these things can happen.

“But still, we were in second and actually we had a bit of a fight, even though I think strategy-wise, we could have done a better job to be a bit more aggressive on the out-lap, for example, to be ahead. And you never know what can happen.”

However, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says that Ferrari had the edge over their team during the opening race of the season and would likely have held the lead even if Verstappen had pushed harder on his out-laps.

“The problem is it’s always a balance – what you take out the tyre early in the stint, you pay for later in the stint,” Horner explained.

“I think possibly we underestimated the undercut. But I think Ferrari had the pace today that, had we got that track position, they would have made the overtake. So we just didn’t quite have their pace today.”

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2022 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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11 comments on ““Aggressive” strategy Verstappen wanted wouldn’t have kept Ferrari behind – Horner”

  1. Lol Horner, did you just say that you don’t have faith in your driver to keep a car that is at max 2 tenths a lap faster than you behind?

  2. I was also surprised by the undercut. Max was 3s behind and then suddenly right behind Charles after the first pitstops. Can anybody explain how this is possible especially with the cold tyres we have now. Normally a undercut is no more than 1 a 2s, maybe it is because of the huge tyre degradation this race?

    1. On the first pitstops I think Verstappen must have absolutely caned his tyres on the inlap -not really an issue, those ones were coming off- and then did the same on the outlap -more of an issue as they needed to last a bit. I think he also had a lot of clear air on the outlap. That’s why the gap to Leclerc shrunk so dramatically after the Ferrari pitstop.

      Seeing the laptimes for Verstappen’s inlap and outlap and Leclerc’s inlap could be useful, if anyone has those?

      The subsequent two lap battle and the eventual lockup probably took enough life out of the tyres, to contribute to the warnign to Verstappen to go easy on the tyres on his outlap from the second stop. An intention to preserve extra life in the tyres for a little later.

      I do know that another factor with that second pitstop was Leclerc’s was half a second faster than Verstappen’s had been. Practically an eternity.

      1. @nikkit If only a site like Racefans produced an article with all the race stats in it. Oh wait, they do!

        1. But they never included the inlap and outlap times which says much more.

      2. @nikkit Verstappen’s in lap wasn’t faster than Leclerc’s in lap – they set virtually identical times, with Leclerc 0.01s faster on his in lap. There was also only an 0.115s advantage for Verstappen in terms of the pit stops – Verstappen spent 24.897s in the pits on lap 14, and Leclerc 25.012s on lap 15.

        Verstappen does seem to have been a bit more aggressive on his out lap – his out lap was 0.251s faster than Leclerc, of which only 0.115s can be accounted for in the pits. What was noticeably different was how much faster Verstappen pushed on his first flying lap on lap 15, where he gained 0.615s relative to what Leclerc did on lap 17 when he had his first flying lap from the pits.

        You are therefore right that Verstappen was pushing his tyres very hard on the out laps – when you compare it to his times later in the race and consider the relative fuel loads, it looks like he was pushing a lot harder than he claims he was.

        1. Thanks for the info. Apparently Max his outlap sector 2 time was 1.6s faster if you compare it to Charles sector 2 at the same lap (inlap for charles). So maybe the undercut will be more powerfull this year due to the tyre degeradation and we will see more of it this season.

    2. It appeared that the deg was higher than expected…there were a few team radio calls to this effect. The only team which seemed to be all over it was Ferrari.

  3. driver starting to blame the team from the first race? That’s new.

    What a colossal finish, if mercedes won’t be contenders then I am rooting for ferrari and charles, at least that guy has come class and charisma.

    1. Charles is as good as Max and didn’t skip any lower classes, so he didn’t needed 150 GPs to be at this level like Max.
      Ferrai massively dropping the ball the last 2 years made he look like he was left behind, but he’s also a top driver.

      Can’t say about Ferrari but Leclerc is definitely taking the fight to Max if he gets the opportunity.

      1. Well, I risk being taken for a solely verstappen fan, but the thing is there’s sooo many undeserved comments against him that I have to keep defending him: leclerc actually made a few mistakes in 2021 if you remember, so he didn’t skip the verstappen phase, it’s normal for a fast driver to have something like that, however I said last year already that leclerc had nothing to lose, could only try for occasional wins, so now that he has a title contender I expect him to cut the mistakes and play for the championship.

        And I always thought leclerc was verstappen level, I thought russell was the same too, so not impressed by him this race, but we’ll see, it’s a car he barely drove.

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