Max Verstappen has praised Red Bull for deploying an “aggressive strategy” which saw him extend his championship lead over Lewis Hamilton with victory at 2021 US Grand Prix.
Verstappen initially lost the lead at the start of the race to Hamilton but managed to keep himself within a second of the Brit, until he made his first stop on Lap 11 which proved enough as he undercut Hamilton with a near seven seconds advantage after the Brit made his stop three laps later.
Red Bull then opted to gamble on an early second stop on Lap 30 which saw Verstappen again undercut Hamilton, as the seven-time champion made his stop at the end of Lap 37 and re-joined with a 7.874s deficit which he just fell short of making up to snatch victory as Verstappen won to extend his lead to 12 points.
Reflecting on his emotions throughout the closing laps, Verstappen said: “The pressure was on for the whole race and not knowing how quickly Lewis would catch up.”
Verstappen also noted that Hamilton had simply made “an even better” than he did to take the initial lead, which forced him to switch to “an aggressive strategy” which resulted in a very long final stint on hard tyres.
Tyre degradation though proved crucial with hot track temperatures with Verstappen confessing that he found the final two laps “definitely difficult on the tyres, there wasn’t much grip left.”
Haas’ Mick Schumacher however proved key to the result as he provided Verstappen with unexpected DRS use, which enabled the championship leader to “hang on” for his eighth victory of season.
Red Bull Team Principal, Christian Horner meanwhile was delighted with what he summed up as “an incredible victory and double podium” after Sergio Perez finished third.
Explaining the decision behind Verstappen’s “aggressive” strategy, Horner revealed that he prioritised “track position” with Verstappen’s early stops due to Hamilton’s ability to run long and gain a late race “advantage” which paid off with a “superbly” managed final stint from Verstappen.
Perez meanwhile found himself completing 56 laps without a drink system in his cockpit but Horner praised the Mexican for “fantastic” race management despite his thirst in the hot conditions, whilst continuing to show growth in his confidence with a second consecutive podium.
Perez himself echoed Horner’s comments as he admitted that the race was the “hardest and longest race” that he had ever endured in his racing career.
Explaining what had happened with his drinks system, Perez said: “I wasn’t feeling great before the race and then my drinks system stopped working on the first lap and with the hot weather today it was very physical and a pretty tough afternoon.”
Perez though has vowed that “there are a lot of positives to take from this weekend and back to back podiums are always nice.”
Previewing his home race, Perez is now confident given Red Bull’s form at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and believes that “we’ll have a good package for my home race.”
Horner meanwhile is anticipating a tough fight between Verstappen and Hamilton in the final five races, adding: “It’s five to go now, and we know that there are a couple of races where Mercedes will have the edge and a couple where we will be strong, so the rest of the season is going to be really tight.”