Red Bull: "Ballsy" F1 strategy call was payback for Spanish GP

Red Bull says its "ballsy" call to sacrifice the lead and switch to a two-stop strategy to win Formula 1's French Grand Prix was payback for its Spanish GP defeat.

Max Verstappen was leading at Paul Ricard on Sunday after the first round of stops and had eked out a slight advantage over the pursuing Lewis Hamilton.

However, his Red Bull team elected to pit for a set of medium tyres, handing the advantage at that stage of the race to Hamilton. But Verstappen had a big pace advantage with the fresher rubber and managed to close in and overtake his Mercedes rival to retake the lead on the penultimate lap of the race.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said that after his team had lost the Spanish GP to a similar tactic from Mercedes, when Hamilton had pitted for fresh tyres and charged back to win, it was fitting his team triumphed this way.

"It was great to get Lewis and it was a little bit of payback for Barcelona earlier in the year with a lap and a half to go," said Horner. "[After the first stop] Max was being pushed really hard, and he wasn't able to be managing the tyres. Mercedes were telling their drivers to keep the pressure on us, and we thought they were very much gearing up for a two-stop themselves.

"The feedback from the car was that he didn't think you'd get to the end. So, the strategist presented the options in front of me and said we have got nothing to lose.

"So, we pulled the trigger and, by putting Sergio [Perez] on the alternative strategy we got both scenarios covered. At that point in the race, we weren't sure which one would work out."

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Horner said the decision to go to a two-stop was especially brave because the team was leading at the time, whereas it would have been a much more obvious thing to do if they had been running second.

"It would have almost been easier if they [Mercedes] had maintained track position, because then we would have pulled the trigger anyway," he said.

"It would have made our decision easier. But to make that call when you're in the lead and all the tyres are looking okay, it was quite a ballsy call. But it was the fastest way we felt at the end of the race."

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