Horner questions rivals’ strategy calls for Hamilton and Leclerc during British GP

2022 British Grand Prix

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was puzzled by some of the strategic calls made by rivals Ferrari and Mercedes during the British Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s decision not to pit race leader Charles Leclerc during the Safety Car period at the end of the race, when his team mate Carlos Sainz Jnr was brought in from second place, prompted much discussion. After the restart Leclerc was passed by Sainz, who went on to win, while Ferrari’s leading driver in the championship sunk to fourth place.

“The call I understood least was not to pit both their cars or certainly Charles for the soft tyre,” Horner told media including RaceFans at Silverstone.

Sainz passed Leclerc immediately after the restart. Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton also pitted for fresh tyres and passed the Ferrari within a few laps.

“With the tyre advantage that Carlos had at that point, he’s got 13-lap-old hards versus a brand new set of softs,” said Horner. “The delta is enormous.

“So I actually thought he did very well, Charles, to hold off Checo and Lewis as long as he did.”

Guanyu Zhou, Alfa Romeo, Silverstone, 2022
Gallery: 2022 British Grand Prix in pictures
However Horner admitted Ferrari faced a difficult decision over whether to pit Leclerc as doing so would have offered his rivals the chance to stay out and pass him. “It’s the hardest thing in the world to pit from the lead,” Horner acknowledged.

Horner also believes Mercedes missed an opportunity to put Hamilton on a more aggressive strategy. He said they could have capitalised on Hamilton running a longer opening stint than the Ferrari drivers by switching him to soft tyres instead of hards when he made his final pit stop.

“I was surprised that Lewis, with that amount of laps to go with the degradation that he’s shown here, didn’t take the soft,” Horner explained. “He went onto the hard tyre on lap 33. I actually thought he was going to go onto the soft because that would have made it much easier for him to make with the offset in grip.

“So it felt like they’d maybe been let off the hook there.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
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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31 comments on “Horner questions rivals’ strategy calls for Hamilton and Leclerc during British GP”

  1. “With the tyre advantage that Carlos had at that point, he’s got 13-lap-old hards versus a brand new set of softs,” said Horner. “The delta is enormous.

    I think this highlights the most baffling part on Binnoto after race explanation: the effect of new soft tyres over LEC old tyres. Some strategy decisions are really complicated, with many factors and ramifications. The consequences of not pitting LEC were evident. Yes, one could get worried about pitting LEC, losing track position and most of the field not pitting. Even if one considers that Horner comments are part of the psy-ops of fighting for the championship, the most conservative tactics was to pit LEC.
    I would give more credence do Binnoto’s decisions if he just said: “We chose to favor Sainz that day.” It is the only rational explanation. Everything else sounds like denying a mistake.

    1. True. I felt for Charles, but i think it would have destroyed Sainz had his win been taken away by the team.

      1. Bringing LEC or both would harm SAI victory chances – he did it himself by not being fast enough after LEC 1st pit and before HAM pit. At that point, possibly HAM would get back from his normal pitstop infront of SAI.

  2. Exactly. Why not just stay there on mediums for 3 or 5 laps and get softs. Or stay there and hope for safety car or VSC. They were a bit brain dead there pitting when they did for what they got. His pace was still not bad when he pitted.

  3. I would have also put Lewis on soft on the first pitstop.

    1. From one week to the next the definition of soft changes. Sure they were ‘softer’ compared to the rest of their choices, but those ‘soft’ were still relatively hard, compared to the soft tires previously used. Even so with 23 laps you have to wonder if they would have lasted. Hamilton would have got 14 hot laps out of them, and then been a sitting duck for others pitting later than him.

      The real shame was Hamilton not being able to capitalise on his incredible start at the beginning. From 5th to 3rd, on mediums with the leaders on softs, he would have ran long and had a sizeble advantage on the rest by the time of his first stop.

      1. mick mickey
        5th July 2022, 9:34

        I believe the hardest compounds were used this weekend (C1, C2, C3). So, the softs here are actually hard tyres elsewhere. Since Hamilton wasn’t losing lap times and the hard tyres took time to start working, it made sense for Mercedes to try some more laps on the mediums and then go to softs. Of course, there’s always the risk of a puncture on old tyres but they needed something radical to win

  4. Mark in Florida
    4th July 2022, 13:33

    Maybe Binotto can get RedBulls second hand strategies because that would be better than what they are doing now. Naturally Charles will always finish second to Max but that’s better than what Ferrari is doing now. Its a sad state of affairs when other teams are mocking your questionable calls. Binnoto has lost the plot, Charles should look for another team. Ferrari seems to like Carlos so no loss for them if Charles leaves. Good luck trying to win a WDC and WCC with Carlos.

    1. Or alternatively why does LEC not qualify better next time so that he doesn’t have to be behind his teammate in the early stages of the race. Perhaps, by doing that, he would have had sufficient time to pit and yet exit ahead of SAI and HAM.

      1. He was ahead at the time the decision was made, so clearly qualifying ahead wouldn’t have helped.

  5. The delta was enormous even for me the casual viewer. Hamilton, Leclerc, Sainz, Verstappen and Perez all struggled after fitting new hard tyres and were weaving on the straights to put more heat into the tyres that started working after two laps. Pitting for new softs was a no brainer. Ferrari could have rectified their mistake a lap after when they saw everyone was on new softs.

    Even if they have doubted the performance or the durability of the softs they would have been in the same situation as all their rivals and Leclerc could have ended up 3rd after the SC period but with a real chance to win the race or at least to score a 1-2 for the team.

    1. @tifoso1989 If I were Lewis I’d ask Mercedes mid race for their conservative option and aggressive option – and always choose the latter. They nearly always play too safe. Hamilton was still OK with the tyres when they pitted him; he had said they were doing fine, then said that they weren’t going to last forever, which seemed to be the signal to call him in. It seemed like they could have extended the stint a few more laps and (a) retain the chance for a cheap SC/VSC pit stop, and (b) go to softs and quickly make up any time lost. Sure a gamble but it was marginal to come out of the Ferraris at best, and the 4+ sec stop messed that up anyhow.

      1. Yeah David,
        I thought that a little as well. Lewis kept an 18 plus second gap for several laps. They could have maybe waited a few more, that would have got him out in front of Ric, and closer to the Ferrari’s, and fewer laps on the hards.

      2. @david-br
        I thought the same too. Mercedes while improved a lot, they are still lagging pace wise behind Ferrari. Hamilton was in contention for the win because Ferrari didn’t let Leclerc escape earlier and his race was compromised by Sainz as a result. Lewis has the ability to extend his tyre life which was the case, Mercedes should have kept him out as long as possible even taking some performance loss and create a chance for a SC.
        If there was no SC, then Hamilton should have switched to the soft in the last part of the race and he would have had the tyre advantage against the Ferraris.

    2. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      4th July 2022, 14:43

      Based on history for Lewis he was going to pit at the SC. Perez had to pit. Double stack the Ferraris and at worst Sainz is behind Lewis. Leclerc is in first place still.

      Sainz with a better car should hold off Perez but be able to overtake Lewis.

      Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

    3. Either Binotto wanted to give the win to SAI or he didnt understood the delta.

  6. Even if there might theoretically be races where staying on the hards was sensible, everything that happened during the race showed that Silverstone in 2022 was not one of those races. The tyres were very slow to bring into their operating window, overtaking was very much possible, and the effect of worse tyres was increased by the high speed corners that are so characteristic of Silverstone.

    Horner mocking Ferrari’s strategic failure is a bit cheeky, but very much on point.

    1. Ferrari again and again stir up passions…. for better of for worse. That being said, Horner is mocking HAM/Mercedes too, yet that doesn’t seem to be that interesting.

  7. I heard Binotto’s explanation after the race, and it sounded reasonable. They pitted Sainz because he was on older tyres and, pitting both would have put him behind Hamilton. Also, I don’t think the delta was that enormous. Before the safety car, Leclerc was going round in the 1m31s, and his tyres were still fine. The soft runners could dip into the 1m30s, but only for a quick lap or two, so I would say the delta was less than one second. In previous seasons, where it was harder to follow, that might have been enough to defend the position.

    Of course, there is also the tyre warm-up problem, which is why they asked Sainz to leave 10 car lengths, to give Charles a lap to get his temperatures up. In hindsight, it was clearly the wrong call, and the biggest mistake was taking that gamble with Leclerc, since he is their championship contender.

    1. “both would have put him behind Hamilton” – That was a mistake. They had more than enough time for a double stack.

      1. @alexde They did. On the assumption that Hamilton was always going to pit for softs under the SC, double-stacking should have left Leclerc P1 on fresh rubber and Sainz P3 behind Hamilton (at worst, maybe even P2 with Hamilton’s slow stop). Hamilton staying out while everyone else pitted under the SC would have been a really bad decision.

        Ferrari should never have even been in this position since they should have told Sainz too let Leclerc through immediately, and Leclerc would have had enough of a lead that pitting under the SC would have been totally safe.

        1. Yet, in another misreading of the race as it happened, Binotto said tha SAI complied immediately with the swap – yeah , immediately after 5 slow laps.

          1. Immediately once told?

            Ferrari bungled several strategy calls.

          2. He was told 3 times according to Channel 4’s broadcast radio

      2. @alexde
        Leclerc was ~5s ahead of Sainz when the SC was deployed. Ferrari could have warned their drivers about double stacking in a way that Leclerc will be flying entering the pit and Sainz will be slow enough within the SC delta since Hamilton cannot overtake him.

  8. I hate to admit it when Horner is just stirring the pot as usual, but he was right about Hamilton. Even Croft could see that running long and then gong for the sifts was the right play. The Ferraris were barely making up ground on him with their new tires. Playing for track position versus the offset was a losing proposition when the Mercedes lacks top speed.

    Maybe that would be all moot due to the last SC. But if he stayed in the lead at the time of the SC and then pitted even to mediums from the lead he probably wins the race ahead of the squabbling Ferraris trying to fend off Pérez.

    1. Yeah, long story short translated = poor strategy. So, it’s good to know that not only Ferrari has problems with finding the optimal strategy.

    2. Hamilton couldn’t change to mediums since he had to use a different compound. The soft was too early when Hamilton pitted. While I thought it was best to extend the stint so that they could fit softs for the final stint, we can’t be certain if their was a critical reason for pitting him at the time they did.

  9. In general, last year was a masterpiece of strategic decisions most of the time, from both title contenders. Sure there were blunders here and there, but Red Bull and Mercedes pushed each other hard from the pitwall, using Perez and Bottas carefully too. Now it seems like Red Bull just needs to wait for Ferrari’s Psyduck moments and bang, they are in the game again.

  10. Bobby Taylor
    4th July 2022, 18:09

    LEC is being let down by Ferrari. He is a world class driver finally in a capable car and is being mishandled drastically. Reliability is one thing strategy is another. It was glaringly obvious that even with a damaged wing he was faster than Carlos. Then you treat your number 1 driver like the number 2 As a Ferrari fan it is frustrating to watch them waste this season with incompetency. I would offer the only reason Carlos got this win was because LEC did an epic job of fighting off HAM and PER upon restart otherwise I think Carlos probably would have been passed by both. Carlos already lost the lead in this race twice and slowed down his teammate, LEC should have been waving his finger at MB instead of the other way around. Ferrari has cost him at least 50 points this season. Outside of the error in Imola LEC has been outstanding. He’s not unlucky. He’s being mismanaged.

  11. Very dodgy strat calls – I think I’m going to apply for the job as I had the same thoughts has horner from my armchair!!

    I’d be looking into running wings without endplates if its allowed – Charles was faster on straights without one imagine without 2!

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