Why Horner was “very surprised” by Ferrari’s red flag tyre call

2023 Mexican Grand Prix interactive data

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was “very surprised” Ferrari didn’t grab an opportunity to attack Max Verstappen at the restart of the Mexican Grand Prix.

The race was split in two when it was red-flagged as a result of Kevin Magnussen’s heavy crash on lap 34. Verstappen led the field at the standing restart and Horner feared his driver would be vulnerable as his strategy left him needing to line up on the hardest tyre compound.

“That red flag was the worst possible time when you’re in the middle of a two-stop,” said Horner. “It neutralises the race and of course we’ve only got a hard set of tyres.”

Verstappen had discarded his first set of medium tyres after just 19 laps. Leclerc had pushed on to lap 31. With 37 laps remaining at the restart, Horner expected Ferrari would seize the chance to attack them using a softer set of tyres at the restart.

Start, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2023
Horner thought Leclerc would seize chance to attack Verstappen
“We thought that Leclerc – after that long first stint, I was convinced – they’d take a set of mediums because it’s worth about five metres off the start line. So I was very surprised that they went with the hard tyre. You saw the medium on Hamilton was okay.”

While Leclerc restarted on hards, Hamilton chose mediums, and passed the Ferrari driver soon afterwards. Leclerc admitted his car was much less competitive on the hard rubber, though that didn’t become apparent until after the red flag.

“I think it still confirms the weaknesses of our car, it’s a very peaky car,” said Leclerc after the race. “Whenever we get out of the optimal window of the car, we are losing too much time. And that’s exactly what happened on the hard.”

“At first, I thought I could do quite a good job once we stopped. But then there was a red flag, the tyres cooled down, we went back out and the feeling was just not the same and I couldn’t find the feeling again with the tyres. So it’s a bit of a shame because before that it was really good, especially on the medium.”

Switching to mediums helped Hamilton take second place
Hamilton did not go as long on his first set of medium tyres as Leclerc did, and like him did not have a spare new set, yet Mercedes felt confident he could get them to the end of the race. But Ferrari were concerned their car, which has had poorer tyre degradation this year, would not be able to do the same.

“We had to restart for 35 laps, or something like this, and we were not expecting to be able to do 35 laps,” said Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur. He suspects the tyre and engine management the drivers had to do ultimately helped Hamilton keep his medium rubber alive long enough. “But it was ambitious,” said Vasseur, adding, “the set of medium that we had was a scrubbed one also.”

Ferrari’s hopes of catching Hamilton rose when Leclerc began to match his lap times from around lap 51. But Hamilton found he was able to lean on his medium tyres more in the final stages and even set the fastest lap on the final tour.

Lando Norris also set his quickest lap of the race as he took the chequered flag. It was a race of what might have been for the McLaren driver, who showed promising pace on Friday but failed to progress beyond Q1 on Saturday. Nonetheless his recovery to fifth was the product of a strong drive aided by an unconventional strategy – he was the only driver to use the soft rubber during the whole race.

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2023 Mexican 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 Mexican 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 Mexican 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 Mexican Grand Prix fastest laps

Each driver’s fastest lap:

Rank # Driver Car Lap time Gap Avg. speed (kph) Lap no.
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’21.334 190.5 71
2 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1’21.644 0.310 189.78 40
3 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’21.944 0.610 189.09 71
4 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’22.332 0.998 188.19 38
5 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 1’22.501 1.167 187.81 11
6 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 1’22.539 1.205 187.72 57
7 3 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 1’22.679 1.345 187.4 66
8 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 1’22.760 1.426 187.22 53
9 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes 1’22.773 1.439 187.19 65
10 63 George Russell Mercedes 1’22.780 1.446 187.18 38
11 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1’22.976 1.642 186.73 66
12 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes 1’23.003 1.669 186.67 24
13 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1’23.146 1.812 186.35 25
14 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’23.166 1.832 186.31 43
15 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari 1’23.222 1.888 186.18 43
16 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 1’23.230 1.896 186.16 43
17 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’23.257 1.923 186.1 43
18 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’23.531 2.197 185.49 40
19 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’23.567 2.233 185.41 39
20 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1’43.446 22.112 149.78 1

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2023 Mexican Grand Prix tyre strategies

The tyre strategies for each driver:

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2023 Mexican Grand Prix pit stop times

How long each driver’s pit stops took:

Rank # Driver Team Complete stop time (s) Gap to best (s) Stop no. Lap no.
1 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 22.067 1 30
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 22.21 0.143 1 24
3 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 22.248 0.181 1 31
4 63 George Russell Mercedes 22.311 0.244 1 26
5 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 22.372 0.305 2 33
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri 22.406 0.339 1 27
7 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 22.427 0.36 1 19
8 4 Lando Norris McLaren 22.563 0.496 2 33
9 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 22.582 0.515 1 30
10 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 22.627 0.56 1 28
11 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 22.817 0.75 1 21
12 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 22.844 0.777 1 29
13 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 23.144 1.077 1 23
14 4 Lando Norris McLaren 23.408 1.341 1 11
15 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 23.638 1.571 1 31
16 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas 23.642 1.575 1 23
17 23 Alexander Albon Williams 23.68 1.613 1 33
18 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren 23.734 1.667 1 25
19 2 Logan Sargeant Williams 23.945 1.878 1 22
20 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 30.121 8.054 1 9

2023 Mexican 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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14 comments on “Why Horner was “very surprised” by Ferrari’s red flag tyre call”

  1. not surprising, had they been able to take Hamilton on the straight with Sainz (by backing up Charles mid-circuit). But the gamble half way paid off and they could contain Russell. Mercedes lack of straight line speed is destroying their ability to create strategies or progress through stints. As for Hamilton setting the fastest lap at the end, thats pretty much the case as he would have had no chance taking RBR on the straights. and thus pushing his tires like Russell did to catch RBR was pointless.

    If their straightline misery has anything to do with a secret deal to lower their fuel pressure, through mis-calibrated sensors, it needs to stop. And if not, Mercedes just needs to get with reality on their straightline performance which has been miserable since after 2021. Hopefully they can sort that car out for Lewis’ last two years.

    1. Some qualifying data:
      Most of the data is pure, due to everyone chosing a clean-air run, except one…
      Mercedes was in the middle of the pack at the finish line, but dropped to a lower position at the end of the straight. This indicates a draggy car. Compare that to the Alpines, who are down on power: They’re slow on the main straight everywhere.
      The Haas’s were at the top of the speeds, but still slow over a lap, so there is more than just the straight line speed to be considered.
      Also noteworthy is that Ricciardo was slow at the finish line, but the fastest at the end of the straight due to the tow from Tsunoda. The others that were in a slipstream during the race went also a lot faster at the end of the straight, but lost on initial acceleration.

      What deal are you suggesting about a lower fuel pressure?

      1. its just me trying to speculate about two seasons of very poor straight line speed, they had the fastest car by a long shot before 2022, especially early on after the PU formula. But now they can’t even really overtake Renaults or Hondas. Some of that is off the corner, but a good lot of that is straight horse power too, in conjunction with probably bad aero on top.

      2. Mercedes themselves have said that especially when at max downforce, their car is very inefficient, ie. draggy @pcxmac

    2. Aston Martin, McLaren, and Williams are all running the Mercedes power units. If the Mercedes lack of straight line speed is purely down to engine power then I’d expect to see the same problem with the other teams too. Likewise, just as Merc couldn’t find the speed to pass the Ferrari on the straight, they should also be underpowered for passing the Alfa Romeo and the Haas. I don’t think that is the case, though I don’t have any data to verify that and will have to watch more closely for this next time. I thought though that the problem was Merc have insufficient floor downforce so they are adding more in rear wing, and that eats into their speed on the straights. If it was just that the Merc engine is developing less power than the others, would they be able to improve it under the “levelling up” rule that was previously used with Renault to allow the to catch up a bit of performance?

  2. Yuki setting the 5th fastest lap of the race on lap 11 is quite interesting. That Alpha Tauri clearly had good pace. Will be interesting to see if they are now regular points contenders in the remaining races, as that will set more of a spotlight on the performances of the two drivers.

    1. Yuki is fast. He just has zero discipline and poor race craft.

      1. Yeah, I think he’s had enough of a chance to prove himself in that team. I would drop him now and try another youngster.

  3. Billy Rae Flop
    30th October 2023, 13:07

    Ah another week, another redbull win, another Horner comment gloating about how a different team could have won if they did xyz differently. Must be boring winning like this all the time for them

    1. I don’t think Toto got bored during his/Mercs 7 years of domination. Totally the opposite.

      Nor did Jean Todd with Ferrari and Schumacher.

      1. Doggy,you have to compare eggs with eggs: Red Bull is totally Annihilating the competition on every front!
        That is not the same as Dominating as Mercedes was!!!
        In reality, whether you put it down to the regulations,the driver(ie MAX ex crash) or the potential cheating;
        Red bull is teaching the car manufacturers how to built,race;and win an F1 race car in a convincing fashion;period!
        One has to suspect,that Red Bull car in itself is responsible for this annihilation:
        The vast reduction in Max crashes;despite taking the same risks as in prior years ;is witness to that car superiority.
        As to Perez;he is was paid to be second at best but mostly to make Max look even better that he(Max)already is.
        dixit ?HELMUT MARKO himself!!!
        Anyways in conclusion Big Congrats to Red Bull and Max and the whole team:a true demonstration as to how it is done!!
        And quite honestly? next year will be exactly more of the same,with such maestra;Max is very capable of winning all the races by himself next year regardless of who his team mate will be.
        Red Bull has clearly and decisively shown that they are a ONE man team and said it ,shown it and repeated it over and over with Massive success.
        Long live the Bulls!!!!
        Ps as it may not show:I am not a bull or Max fan,very far from it.
        But facts are facts!!!

  4. Coventry Climax
    30th October 2023, 14:59

    I’m not surprised by anything that Ferrari does anymore, actually.
    That they didn’t even try to attack Red Bull is one, but defending from Mercedes, behind?
    Didn’t Leclerc even comment that a restart on hards was going to be a big mess?

    1. I think Carlos said it best, they have issues with tire deg, probably due to the unbalanced nature of their car, and the hards were probably the best best to ride out the remainder of the race. I actually think Ferrari did pretty good after the restart, they just couldn’t keep Hamilton behind, which was very close.

      1. Coventry Climax
        30th October 2023, 21:56

        I hope you’re right, for Ferrari’s sake.
        On the other hand, for how long have they had this high tyre deg already?
        And their strategic choices have been so erratic that they now seem to have resorted to making them all so lame, non adventurous, conservative.

Comments are closed.