Inclement weather plagued the Dutch Grand Prix, with two episodes of rainfall disrupting the race. The second of these precipitations was so severe it led to a red flag situation which was prompted by Zhou Guanyu from Alfa Romeo aquaplaning into Turn 1, resulting in a crash.
During the rainfall that occurred on lap 62, Max Verstappen, the Red Bull star, was hesitant to come in for intermediate tires. His race engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase, however, advised him that it was a good time to pit given the rapidly deteriorating track conditions.
Reflecting on the situation, Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, admitted that the ultimate decision to call Verstappen in was his amid the uncertainty swirling around the weather conditions. As the weather worsened, he narrated that he exclaimed to Lambiase, “Get him in!” in a bid to prevent any mishap.
The strategic call to bring Verstappen in played a crucial role in helping Red Bull outplay its adversaries such as Mercedes, McLaren, and Williams. Horner acknowledges that this was partly due to luck and majorly due to risk management. He observed, “There were so many things that could go wrong…But we’ve done eight pitstops today and the team has nailed every one of them other than the one that Checo [Perez] gave us about five seconds notice for.”
The first round of rain had already thrown a curveball during the start of the race. Perez, who started seventh, opted to pit immediately whereas Verstappen stayed out longer and lost his advantage to his teammate. Horner concedes that deciding to pit after Lap 1 was a tough call to make due to the uncertainty of the weather conditions. However, Perez’s decision to pit yielded a good outcome.
The fortunes were flipped when Verstappen managed an undercut on Perez during the switch back to slicks 10 laps later. Horner revealed that this decision was made due to the threat of an undercut from Fernando Alonso, representing Aston Marti and other competitors. This strategic play saw Alsbon’s performance improve substantially, attesting to the efficacy of slicks.
Horner added, the risk of undercutting Perez was fruitful as it landed the team an assured first and second position, making the call a strategic masterstroke. The team was perplexed, still, as they felt that had they pitted Perez first, they would have ended in a net one-four position, losing valuable points in the process.