With Max Verstappen starting 10th on the grid after his engine problem in qualifying, and team-mate Sergio Perez one place further back, Red Bull’s simulations had shown that the best route to get a good result was a long first stint. on the hard.
But difficulties both drivers had in changing even the soft tire on the way to the grid led Red Bull to scrap its original idea.
That proved to be a hugely important step, as the battle that some rivals – including Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – had with the hard would have doomed Red Bull to a very difficult opening phase of the race rather than a burden on the soft. that helped to secure the win.
“Our strategy was out the window after the laps to the grid,” explained Verstappen.
“We had to turn it around and make a new one. But I don’t think that’s very difficult for the team, they’re very flexible and they know what they’re doing.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, knowing how difficult it had been for the drivers in the laps to the grid, thought it would have been “ridiculous” to go ahead with the original plan.
“We were going to start the race on the hard tire because statistically that seemed like our best race,” he said.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36, Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-22, Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22, Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42, the rest of the field on the opening lap
Photo By: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“But the drivers struggled to generate temperature in the soft tire on the way to the grid. And it felt ridiculous to start the race on a hard tire, especially with some weather around.
“We converted both drivers on the grid to the soft tyre, which forced us to a two-stop. But we made it work today and it turned out beautifully.”
Verstappen agreed it was a no-brainer to scrap the hard tire plan once it became clear how difficult it would be to put the rubber on.
“I went to the starting grid on the soft tires and I was already struggling for grip, so I was like, ‘We’re really not going to start on the hard,'” he explained.
“It’s also an honor for the team because of course we plan the strategy around the hard tire, and then we’re like, ‘Okay, we’re switching to a soft tire.’
“I’m really glad we did that because the hard tire was really tough. And you could see Charles and Carlos sliding a lot.”