Verstappen explains Red Bull’s opposite F1 tyre strategy to Mercedes

Red Bull Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen says he committed to starting the Hungarian Grand Prix on soft tyres because he was not convinced that his medium lap time would have been good enough to progress to Q3.
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B.
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B.

The world championship leader will start Sunday’s race from third after title rival Lewis Hamilton claimed his 101st F1 pole position at the Hungaroring and Valtteri Bottas completed a Mercedes front-row lockout.

Red Bull and Mercedes have often elected to start races on the more durable medium tyre by setting their best time of Q2 on the yellow-walled compound, but Verstappen and Perez both set their fastest laps on softs.

While the front-running drivers usually head out on a pair of softs for a ‘banker lap’ at the end of Q2 as preparation for the pole shootout, Verstappen actually improved his time, locking him in to starting on softs.

The Dutchman said the move was not planned but rather a response to concerns that his lap time might not be good enough to advance to Q3 due to track evolution.

"It was just because the others also were on the soft and they were improving their laptime," explained Verstappen.

"So when my lap time on the medium would have really been on the edge for top 10, we decided to finish that lap.”

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B in qualifying parc ferme.
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB16B in qualifying parc ferme.

While Mercedes may have the upper-hand with its race strategy, starting on the soft tyres should give Verstappen and Perez an advantage on the long run down to Turn 1.

“It’s of course going to be different, the grip was quite a bit higher on these tyres, so of course we’ll find out tomorrow,” Verstappen added.

“It’s going to be really hot, so naturally of course the softer tyre will not last as long as the medium, but nevertheless, it will give us a good opportunity off the line.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner reckons favouring an “attacking” approach in the race should pay off.

”We couldn't do the same time as Lewis did on the medium, and we felt that maybe tactically, it's a different route,” he told Sky Sports. “I’d prefer that tyre for the start tomorrow. So we'll see.

"We've got to drive an attacking race tomorrow. You know how hard it is to overtake around here, so strategy is going to be crucial.”

Polesitter Hamilton admitted he was “surprised” by Red Bull’s strategy, adding: “I think the soft tyre is worth something like five metres down to Turn 1, it’s a long way down to Turn 1.”

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