BARCELONA, Spain — Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has defended his decision to use team orders to move Max Verstappen ahead of Sergio Perez at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Perez conceded the lead of the race to his teammate with 17 laps remaining after Red Bull told him to let Verstappen pass.
When the order was issued, Perez responded by saying, “That’s very unfair, but OK”.
After Verstappen won the race ahead of Perez, the Mexican added, “I’m happy for the team, but we need to speak later”.
The two Red Bull drivers were on different tyre strategies, with Perez chasing a two-stop race for much of the grand prix (which later became a three-stop once he lost the lead) and Verstappen switching to a three-stop after spinning wide at Turn 4 on lap nine of the race, which moved him behind Perez and George Russell.
Perez also let Verstappen past earlier in the race when they were both behind Russell in order to let his teammate attack the Mercedes driver.
The team orders issue was further complicated by Verstappen experiencing issues with his Drag Reduction System (DRS), which would have hindered his chances of performing a clean overtake on Perez and kept him bottled behind Russell.
However, Horner said Verstappen had a significant tyre advantage at the end of the race thanks to the differing tyre strategies and that it wasn’t in the team’s interest to let the battle play out on track.
“At that stage there was a tyre delta of close to two seconds a lap [in favour of Verstappen], so with oil temperatures, water temperatures [running high] and a DRS that was intermittently working it didn’t make any sense for the team to let them fight because it was an unfair fight anyway,” Horner said. “As it turned out, we had to pit Checo [Perez] anyway for the end of the race.
“So both drivers worked together as a team and to get the maximum points today was hugely important when Ferrari had an issue.”
“When Perez was asked if he should have been the Red Bull driver celebrating victory in Spain, he said: “I think so, I think so.
“Especially at the beginning when I gave the position to Max thinking I was going to get it back later but then we swapped strategies.
“He went for the three[-stop], I went for the two[-stop]. It turned out to be a better strategy, the one he was on. It’s a bit frustrating from my side at the moment but at the end of the day it’s a great team result
“There are a few things that we will discuss internally, what went on, as when you’re driving you don’t understand much about the bigger picture. It’s just a normal thing.”
Perez added that the split in strategies was of more concern to him than the team orders at the end.
“I wouldn’t say team orders. I think at the time what really changed my race was that I went for the two[-stop], Max went for the three[-stop]. I gave the position in the beginning because he wanted to attack George but as I said there are a few things we definitely need to discuss.”
Horner understood Perez’s frustrations but is confident he will ultimately understand the team’s decisions.
“I spoke with him when he got out the car and I think the problem for any driver is that if they don’t have the clear overview of a strategy or race plan in front of them, it is always going to be emotive to give up a lead,” Horner said.”But he played very much a team game, I think he understood clearly that it wasn’t a like-for-like fight because the pace delta between the strategies was so great that from a team point of view it just didn’t make any sense, which is why we didn’t let the drivers get into a fight today.”