Did Red Bull have enough time to cancel pit stop which “hurt” Verstappen’s race?

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Max Verstappen wondered whether his Red Bull team could have avoided bringing him in from the lead for a pit stop seconds before the Safety Car was deployed in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The decision cost him victory in the race, as his team mate Sergio Perez pitted once the Safety Car was deployed, which meant he lost less time in the pits and emerged in the lead.

After the race Verstappen wondered whether his team should have realised a Safety Car period was inevitable soon after Nyck de Vries’ stoppage, which caused it.

“I saw that there was a car stopped, I thought he maybe just locked up,” said Verstappen. “In hindsight, I mean I can’t see that, but it’s something to review.

“Clearly you could see there was one wheel damaged and it looked like he was not going to drive that anyway back to the pits, even if he would have reversed. So it’s something to look at because, of course, that then did hurt my race after that.”

Nyck de Vries, AlphaTauri, Baku City Circuit, 2023
De Vries’ retirement was bad news for Verstappen
As De Vries made contact with the barrier at turn five which caused the terminal damage to his front-left track rod, Verstappen was rounding the fast turn 13 left-hander. He received the call to pit after he accelerated out of turn 16 and began the long sprint to the start-finish area.

In total, from De Vries striking the barrier to Verstappen committing to the pit lane entrance, Red Bull had at most 25 seconds to realise the AlphaTauri was unlikely to move from its position, and that the Safety Car would likely be deployed. Should they have realised and left him out?

Verstappen was under pressure from his team mate as the lap began. Sergio Perez got within DRS range of Verstappen for the first time on lap nine. There was no discussion of De Vries’ stoppage on Verstappen’s radio on the lap he came in:

Lambiase0.9 and DRS. Things are starting to move already.
VerstappenI just struggle a lot in two and three.
LambiaseOkay understood.
LambiaseYou’re currently torque six, Max. Baseline is..
VerstappenYeah, mate, I’m sliding.
LambiaseOkay box and pit confirm, Max. Box, pit confirm.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner later revealed that while the team were deciding to bring Verstappen in, they also considered a simultaneous pit stop for both cars.

However there was no indication Perez was experiencing the same kind of deterioration in tyre performance that Verstappen had. He was left out, and while Verstappen headed for the pits Perez was twice told “your windows are open”, meaning he should be prepared to pit in the event of a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car.

Horner described how the decision to pit was made. “As a collective it comes up the chain, the strategists make the recommendation, the team manager’s controlling the pit stop and obviously looking at the circuit in terms of whether it’s a yellow or not and the probability of a Safety Car.

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“The race engineer is obviously looking at it as well. So we have a process, at one stage we were talking about gearing up for a double stop.”

FIA Safety Car, Baku City Circuit, 2023
The Safety Car came at the worst possible time for Verstappen
As Horner pointed out, it wasn’t immediately obvious from the footage of De Vries’ car shown on the world feed that he was unlikely to get going again. “There was a quick shot of him and it was just a black set of lines,” said Horner. “It looked like he outbraked himself, gone straight on, hadn’t hit the barrier.

“Usually if you see it in a barrier, it’s a Safety Car. But there was no sign of him having hit the barrier and so it was only subsequently, I think on the replays, that you were able to see a track rod that was broken.”

There were two clues De Vries’ stoppage was likely to cause a Safety Car, one of which was discernible from the world feed. The location of his stoppage was one: Drivers seldom park up at turn six unless there is a problem with their car, as the approach speed from turn five is already low.

Anyone watching the live onboard stream from De Vries’ car would have had a much clearer sign he wasn’t going to be able to drive away. It was clear when he struck the turn five barrier and his front wheels began pointing in opposite directions that his race was over.

But anyone at Red Bull who picked up on these signs when they appeared had very little time to look into them, make any necessary double-checks and pass the information up the chain to the decision-makers. Verstappen is right that it was clear De Vries was not about to drive away, but there was precious little time to abort the call for him to pit.

The outcome wasn’t a disaster for Red Bull, as they still secured a one-two, but it was a blow for Verstappen. That said, Perez had shown he had the pace to challenge his team mate, and the Safety Car denied us the chance to see if he could take the fight to him.

Red Bull’s pace wasn’t enough for them to secure the fastest lap from chasing rivals who were able to pit for fresher, softer rubber. George Russell did that on the final lap and claimed the fastest time on a set of softs by 0.862s over Verstappen, whose time was set on 41-lap-old hards.

It wasn’t just Russell who made a late pit stop. Esteban Ocon did so as well having run 50 of the 51 laps on a set of hards. Nico Hulkenberg attempted a similar strategy. The pair who started in the pits hoped a late Safety Car or – the best case scenario for them – a red flag would rescue their race.

“I think we need to pit, the tyres are fucked,” Hulkenberg told his team late in the race. “Just hang in there,” race engineer Gary Gannon replied. “Just try to stay out. The only chance is if we get some kind of Safety Car or a red.” They didn’t get one.

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix lap chart

The positions of each driver on every lap. Click name to highlight, right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix race chart

The gaps between each driver on every lap compared to the leader’s average lap time. Very large gaps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and right-click to reset. Toggle drivers using controls below:

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix lap times

All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded). Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and toggle drivers using the control below:

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

RankNo.DriverCarLap timeGapAverage speed (kph)Lap no.
163George RussellMercedes1’43.370209.0651
21Max VerstappenRed Bull1’44.2320.862207.3351
314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1’44.2410.871207.3249
416Charles LeclercFerrari1’44.5611.191206.6849
511Sergio PerezRed Bull1’44.5891.219206.6350
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’45.1751.805205.4748
744Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’45.3461.976205.1448
810Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1’45.5402.170204.7647
918Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’45.6272.257204.645
1081Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1’45.6312.261204.5951
1122Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red Bull1’45.7272.357204.451
124Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’45.7382.368204.3849
1320Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’45.8502.480204.1651
1431Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’45.9082.538204.0549
1523Alexander AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1’45.9252.555204.0251
1677Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’46.3042.934203.2936
172Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1’46.5013.131202.9249
1827Nico HulkenbergHaas-Ferrari1’46.7313.361202.4834
1924Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’47.5534.183200.9331
2021Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Red Bull1’48.7815.411198.664

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix tyre strategies

The tyre strategies for each driver:

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix pit stop times

How long each driver’s pit stops took:

RankNo.DriverTeamComplete stop time (s)Gap to best (s)Stop no.Lap no.
110Pierre GaslyAlpine20.23515
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes20.3240.08919
34Lando NorrisMcLaren20.3460.11119
431Esteban OconAlpine20.3670.132150
511Sergio PerezRed Bull20.3890.154111
663George RussellMercedes20.4590.224111
722Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri20.4970.26218
81Max VerstappenRed Bull20.7070.472110
981Oscar PiastriMcLaren20.9020.66718
1077Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo20.9670.73216
1177Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo21.0120.777334
122Logan SargeantWilliams21.0150.7818
1323Alexander AlbonWilliams21.1030.86817
1416Charles LeclercFerrari21.1260.891111
1510Pierre GaslyAlpine21.1690.934223
1663George RussellMercedes21.3891.154249
1755Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari21.971.735111
1824Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo22.2472.012111
1977Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo22.3542.119212
2014Fernando AlonsoAston Martin23.1482.913111
2118Lance StrollAston Martin23.1612.926111
2227Nico HulkenbergHaas24.7484.513149
2320Kevin MagnussenHaas30.95110.716110

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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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...

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    19 comments on “Did Red Bull have enough time to cancel pit stop which “hurt” Verstappen’s race?”

    1. Perhaps but not much & ultimately, the broken track rod only became apparent in the replays rather than at the first glimpse, so I also thought he was struggling to get reserve gear on.
      Therefore, the pit call in response was understandable.

      1. Yeah, it was really not that immediately obvious De Vries was not going to back up out of the runoff once he had a clear track behind him @jerejj.

        Sure, Red Bull might have waited? But then they might have had Perez DRSing past Verstappen (and who knows what that would have ended up like) on the main straight.

    2. Checo seemed poised to try and overtake Max in maybe a couple laps and I would have liked to watch that

    3. Max whinging about every little thing is tiresome. He drove a great race, still leads the points, and he still complains. *sigh*

      1. couldntstopmyself
        1st May 2023, 19:43

        Sometimes I wonder if he deliberately answers questions of reporters in a way that can be interpreted as complaining merely to allow some fans to whinge. s/

      2. @zapski I agree that Max can whinge with the best (or worst) of them. But I struggle to see how his comments in this instance are anything other than a reasonable reflection of what had occurred.

      3. @zapski its called perfectionism. When you are a competitive athlete it’s what makes the difference between being the best and being forgotten the moment you leave the sport.

    4. You can understand his frustration. Even if it wasn’t clear that there would be a VSC or SC, it wouldn’t really have cost RB a lot to keep him out for one more lap. While the risk in pitting him was, as we saw, a lot.

      1. I personally think they pitted Max to prevent an on track overtake by Checo on Max. It is quite clear from Horner’s body language and comments so far this year regarding Checo/Max that Checo winning is not what they want. If it’s going to be a 1-2 finish they want it Max P1, Checo P2.

    5. Exactly ! Keeping Verstappen out had a nil cost for Red Bull as a team, while it could have had a huge cost to Verstappen if he got overtaken by his teammate. That, plus the history of Red Bull always having a clear favorite driver, makes the call a bit smelly to me. Basically, they chose to risk losing places to other cars, over the risk to have their cars placed in the wrong order. From a team’s point of view, I can’t make any sense of their decision, even if they had only 10 seconds to take it. From Team Verstappen’s point of view, it made all the sense in the world.

      Maybe I read too much into it. Even Red Bull can make operational mistakes from time to time.

      1. Maybe check the F1tv post race show. They explained it in detail. There is always a change you get hurt if the SC call is made just after you pass the pitlane. In that case both the RBs could have lost places because they had to do another lap under SC.

        1. Ah OK, thank you, it finally makes sense to me. In such cases, one usually indeed splits strategies.

    6. There wasn’t much time to change the call but even from my sofa at home I could see the front left was pointing a completely different direction to the right. I was surprised it took the commentators so long to call it as well.

    7. They call him to avoid the Perez move for the first place on track and possible a battle between the 2 RBR

    8. The De Vries incident looked immediately like a full safety car, true.
      But having looked at that period of the race again (which I missed first time round), I’ve kind of reassessed the whole race, realizing Perez was indeed quicker at the end of the stints and overall. Verstappen had to pit first or be passed on track very soon. As lots of people have mentioned, that’s actually a huge issue in the Red Bull universe! Firstly, would they tangle? Secondly, if Perez got past unscathed, it would have a significant impact on the relative morale of each driver. Lots of commentators have insisted that last year’s Monaco round remains an issue for the Verstappens and Perez beating Max in a straight fight, finally, would have a huge impact. Red Bull averted that, I think, by using the De Vries incident as a trigger for a pit stop they were already debating.

    9. Max becoming Lewis. Both are given preferential treatment by their teams and when it doesn’t work, they whine. Earlier this season, Lewis was whining about some team decision that actually ended up helping him and hurting Russel. The comments from these 2 mean they don’t trust that their teams are giving them preferential treatment and they both fully expect to be prioritized over their respective teammates. George to Ferrari next season as Carlos is sent packing.

    10. It was just bad luck the time window too decide was just a fraction to narrow to commit or cancel the pitstop. Just case closed … next race.

    11. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      2nd May 2023, 13:06

      An awful race for the factory Red Bull Team but a great result for Perez in the privateer Red Bull entry.

      1. Hit the nail on the head. I think they brought Max in to prevent an on track overtake by Checo on Max.

    Comments are closed.