Verstappen too hasty to blame Red Bull for getting ‘everything wrong’ in Austrian GP

Max Verstappen laid into his F1 team after a disappointing Austrian GP but Mark Hughes can see the logic behind Red Bull’s thinking

Max Verstappen in pits at Austrian GP

The F1 world champion was not pleased with the performance of his Red Bull crew in the Austrian pits

At the end of the first stint, I caught quite a bit of traffic and we should have just boxed because I gave up free lap time,” complained Max Verstappen of his team’s strategy in the Austrian Grand Prix. He was just getting started. “We basically did a lot of things wrong today. It started with the strategy, then the pitstop was a disaster. The first one already bad, the second one a disaster.”

When he says the first stop was bad, he’s talking of a stationary time of 2.7sec. The record is 1.8sec. The second one – in which the left-rear wheel would not come off – took 6.5sec (which was 3.6sec longer than that of his rival for victory Lando Norris).

In his 28-lap second stint, he was radioing in after just 16 laps that his tyres felt bad.  “I don’t know what’s happening,” he said. Twenty-five laps into the stint, he was almost pleading to be brought in for his new set, saying, “I can’t hold this much longer.” He was at that point being pressured by the two lapped Haas cars (on much newer rubber) to let them by. In theory he could have been blue-flagged. “I’m going to get overtaken.”

Austria 2024, Max Verstappen Red Bull’s

Fifth in Austria for Max Verstappen – but as Red Bull’s Christian Horner says, it wasn’t all bad

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But still the Red Bull pitwall resisted. Why so? Because although he was struggling, so was Norris – and the gap to the McLaren remained quite steady at between 6.7sec and 7.1sec according to traffic. Coming in earlier than necessary would mean a longer stint on the mediums – and George Russell had just shown that the mediums could be absolutely finished after just 25 laps. Getting too early onto them – if Norris pitted several laps later to get a big grip advantage – could have been risky. Also, staying out there for as long as possible meant you increased  your chances of getting to benefit from a safety car. A safety car after Verstappen had pitted but before Norris had would have given Norris the victory. Furthermore, although the lapped Haas cars were making life uncomfortable for Verstappen as they tracked him closely, they were also ensuring that Norris was running in dirty air. So it was freezing Verstappen’s advantage over the only car which mattered.

Verstappen and Norris pitted on lap 51, with 20 to go. Then Vertappen’s day began to get worse.

“Everything needs to be perfect to win and we have done that well so far,” continued Verstappen. “We’ve won a lot of races but today we did everything wrong and you put yourself in this position.”

Max Verstappen 2024 Austrain GP

“I don’t think we got the strategy wrong,” said team boss Christian Horner. “We extended to cover Norris. Because we were quicker than Norris, it made sense to do that, because if you get unlucky with a safety car by coming in early, you lose track position. Therefore while we had the pace on Lando, we were able to be maintaining and pulling a gap –sometimes tactically it makes sense to do that. Probably we would have been better off with new medium versus a new hard [for the second stint], but hindsight’s a wonderful thing. The pace of the car has been very strong this weekend. We’ve had two poles, he’s led all but nine laps of the grand prix, won the sprint race, he’s extended his lead in the championship. We’ve extended our lead in the constructors’ championship. So despite not getting the win, it’s not been totally disastrous.