Christian Horner admits he was ‘surprised’ by Mercedes call

Mercedes have put their drivers out of contention for victory with some interesting tyre choices recently.

Max Verstappen won his record breaking fourteenth race of the season in Mexico, the most won by any driver in a single season.

The Dutchman was once again pressured by Lewis Hamilton as he was in Austin, but as in the United States, tyre choices cost Mercedes a shot at being on the top step of the podium.

Mercedes data had indicated that a one stop would only be possible with a medium-hard combination, meaning that Red Bull, who opted for a soft-medium strategy, would have to stop again or experience a serious drop off in pace.

This did not happen however as Verstappen managed his tyres perfectly to win the race after making only one pit stop, without ever really falling off the pace curve.

READ: Christian Horner hits out at Sky’s ‘derogatory comments’ about Max Verstappen

It had been seen in practice that the hard tyre had a significant pace difference and struggled for grip, but the Silver Arrows still decided to run the hards for their second stint, much to the surprise of Christian Horner.

“With the hard, there’s just not as much grip in the tyre. So we were quite surprised Mercedes went as conservative as they did with the medium/hard strategy,” said the Red Bull boss.

“I think we still had the edge but they would have been a lot closer. 

“If you hear their drivers, they’re not very happy about the hard tyre. That’s the second weekend in a row they’ve put that tyre on and it’s cost them a victory. I was quite surprised at that.”

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The scenario was similar to that in Hungary, when Ferrari opted to pit their drivers for the hard tyre despite the data suggesting they would struggle, and like Mercedes in Mexico, the Ferrari drivers complained as they failed to really fire up the compound.

Max Verstappen has credited his team for their decision making skills, saying that the one stop was not set in stone, the team simply watched the race unfold and made what they anticipated would be the best call for the scenario.

“We left the strategy open,” explained the Dutchman.

“We wanted to see how tyre wear developed in the race. That’s why we started out on soft.

READ: George Russell blames Mercedes after rare blunder

“But I never felt like I was under pressure. I was taking it easy on my tyres the whole time.

“The only question mark was how long the medium tyres would last, but after just a few laps it felt really good. We knew pretty early on we could make it to the end.”

It is out of character for the Mercedes crew to make errors in their judgement but some have suggested that they may have thrown their best chance at a win this year down they drain, with Abu Dhabi and Brazil both featuring straights that will punish the team for their lack of straight line speed.