Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes his team could not have done more to prevent a “quicker” Mercedes from overhauling them for victory in the Spanish GP.
Max Verstappen had led for most of the race after impressively passing Lewis Hamilton at the opening corner but was overtaken at the start of lap 60 by his British rival.
Hamilton had stopped 17 laps beforehand for fresh tyres when right on the Red Bull’s tail, but seemingly unlikely to pass without a significantly greater tyre life advantage.
Asked by Sky Sports F1 if Red Bull could have countered Mercedes’ attack in any other way, Horner said: “I don’t think we could.
“In fairness, hats off to Mercedes and Lewis – they were just quicker than we were today, the fact they could follow so close through the first two stints of the race.
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“We were surprised they didn’t go for the undercut earlier and pull the trigger, so we’d managed to keep track position. But the problem is that when the field opens up to the degree that it did behind, Lewis has then just got a ‘free’ stop.
“So they banked that, then you’ve given up track position, so you’re in that horrible situation as the leader of either trying to brave it out to the end because at that point you’ve conceded the track position.
“So we knew he was probably going to catch us.”
Horner was joined on the Sky F1 stage by his Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff, who agreed that Red Bull had little chance to do anything else.
“It’s so difficult I guess at the front for Red Bull to take the right decisions because you give up position you could have lost the race,” said Wolff.
“Second is just easier when you have the gap to make that call.”
Horner described it as a “replay from Hungry a couple of years ago” when, also running second to Verstappen, Mercedes gambled on a second stop with Hamilton and beat Red Bull to victory.
“We had a quick car but obviously when you lose the position on the first lap you are on the back foot,” added Wolff.
‘Sitting duck’ Verstappen not discouraged by second
Although he lost out on a second win of the season so close to the end of the race, Verstappen was philosophical about the final result.
“It was more or less what you can see coming,” he told Sky F1. “Personally, I’m not too disappointed because I tried everything I could but we were just too slow.
“After the first stop when we were both on the mediums I could see he was a lot faster. To be all the time within 1.2s around here is almost impossible, so I was just trying to keep my tyres alive.
“Then he pitted so I knew it was over. Of course that doesn’t go through in my wind, I’m still doing the best I can to try and bring it to the end in the best possible way, but I knew that as soon as they pitted that second time he would come back at me a bit like Hungary. There is not much you can do.”
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