Why Red Bull made “conservative” call not to start on same tyres as rivals

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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The run from pole position to turn one at the Circuit de Catalunya is one of the longest on the calendar, at 579 metres. The risk of losing positions at the start is therefore high if you choose not to start on the softest available tyres.

Last year every driver started on softs, except for Lewis Hamilton, whose race was ruined when he incurred damage on the first lap.

So it said a lot about Red Bull’s confidence in the performance of their car that they put both drivers on the medium tyre compound for the start of the race. Not just Sergio Perez, who lined up 11th and potentially had more to gain strategically, but pole-winner Max Verstappen as well.

After the race team principal Christian Horner said the decision had been “a bit on the conservative side” and arose from concerns over how well the C3 would hold up. “We were concerned that the soft tyre would degrade quite quickly and could put you on the cusp of a three-stop [strategy].

“So we were a little bit more conservative with Max. And with Checo, we felt that it would give him longer range to make better use of the pace of the car and that indeed that played out pretty well for him later in the race.”

Red Bull’s fears they would end up three-stopping – as most drivers did last year – didn’t materialise for them or most of their rivals. Even the likes of Zhou Guanyu, who was in the pits before lap 10 to discard his first set of softs, made it to the end with only one more visit.

Race start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
Poll: Vote for your 2023 Spanish Grand Prix Driver of the Weekend
The realisation that the soft tyre was strong enough led Red Bull to fit it for their drivers’ final stints, when Verstappen inevitably banged in the fastest lap of the day. Lewis Hamilton’s best time in the updated Mercedes was only three-tenths of a second slower, but he had already fallen over 20 seconds behind the Red Bull at that point.

With an unusually mixed-up grid (seven different teams featured in the top seven places), significant differences in tyre degradation between cars and potentially slightly easier overtaking due to the removal of the chicane (and the power of DRS), places changed hands quite readily.

After the race, Horner said Red Bull hadn’t expected Perez wouldn’t make it further than fourth from fifth on the grid. It’s unlikely they saw him falling behind George Russell, but they must have expected Carlos Sainz Jnr and Lance Stroll would be able to out-run him from second and fifth on the grid respectively. However both Ferrari and Aston Martin experienced noticeably poorer tyre degradation than Red Bull, and even Mercedes, in Spain.

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2023 Spanish 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 Spanish 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 Spanish 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 Spanish Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

RankNo.DriverCarLap timeGapAverage speed (kph)Lap no.
11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’16.330219.6461
211Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’16.6660.336218.6852
344Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’16.6760.346218.6562
44Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’17.1820.852217.2255
563George RussellMercedes1’17.8751.545215.2848
620Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’18.0691.739214.7544
714Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1’18.0831.753214.7149
877Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’18.2421.912214.2750
916Charles LeclercFerrari1’18.3572.027213.9652
1010Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1’18.3752.045213.9141
1155Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’18.4032.073213.8360
1221Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT1’18.5942.264213.3141
1381Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1’18.6792.349213.0841
1418Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’18.7222.392212.9756
1524Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’18.7532.423212.8838
1627Nico HulkenbergHaas-Ferrari1’18.7762.446212.8253
1722Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT1’18.9042.574212.4859
1831Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’18.9462.616212.3654
1923Alexander AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1’19.1332.803211.8659
202Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1’19.2472.917211.5641

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix tyre strategies

The tyre strategies for each driver:

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2023 Spanish 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.
111Sergio PerezRed Bull21.537250
211Sergio PerezRed Bull21.7750.238127
316Charles LeclercFerrari21.7780.241116
421Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri21.9760.439238
522Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri22.0090.472234
663George RussellMercedes22.0540.517245
74Lando NorrisMcLaren22.0620.525350
831Esteban OconAlpine22.1120.575113
920Kevin MagnussenHaas22.1240.587110
1022Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri22.1760.639110
111Max VerstappenRed Bull22.2410.704126
1263George RussellMercedes22.2750.738125
1320Kevin MagnussenHaas22.2910.754342
1427Nico HulkenbergHaas22.2980.76118
1555Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari22.3210.784115
1618Lance StrollAston Martin22.3550.818114
171Max VerstappenRed Bull22.3570.82252
1881Oscar PiastriMcLaren22.370.833117
1955Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari22.3750.838241
2021Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri22.5220.98519
2114Fernando AlonsoAston Martin22.5581.021119
2244Lewis HamiltonMercedes22.5751.038124
232Logan SargeantWilliams22.5831.046117
2444Lewis HamiltonMercedes22.7311.194250
254Lando NorrisMcLaren22.851.313222
2681Oscar PiastriMcLaren22.8621.325239
2724Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo22.8891.352236
2814Fernando AlonsoAston Martin22.8961.359244
2916Charles LeclercFerrari23.0031.466241
3027Nico HulkenbergHaas23.2571.72226
3123Alexander AlbonWilliams23.3191.782116
3218Lance StrollAston Martin23.3711.834234
3310Pierre GaslyAlpine23.3881.851119
3424Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo23.431.89319
3523Alexander AlbonWilliams23.4491.912237
3610Pierre GaslyAlpine23.612.073239
3777Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo23.6912.15415
382Logan SargeantWilliams23.8272.29236
3977Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo24.0972.56239
4031Esteban OconAlpine24.112.573235
4127Nico HulkenbergHaas24.4842.947343
4220Kevin MagnussenHaas24.83.263224
434Lando NorrisMcLaren37.73616.19911

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Author information

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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2 comments on “Why Red Bull made “conservative” call not to start on same tyres as rivals”

  1. Picking nits, as I enjoy this site, but…..

    After the race, Horner said Red Bull hadn’t expected Perez wouldn’t make it further than fourth from fifth on the grid.

    This sort of thing happens all the time. Maybe have someone else read the copy before posting…..

    1. The Medium (white) tyre wasn’t very good race tyre a lot of sliding (For Red Bull at least) So Soft Medium Soft was the best way… Which Mercedes did very well.

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