Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner insists his team was right to gamble in sticking to its two-stop strategy in the Chinese Grand Prix, even though Sebastian Vettel was beaten by the three-stopping Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel's decision to stop only twice meant he had to try and look after his prime tires for a lengthy stint at the end, but high degradation hindered his progress and dropped him back into the clutches of Hamilton, who swooped past him for the win. Although the pace of Red Bull Racing's RB7 meant that Vettel could still have challenged for the win if he had copied Hamilton's strategy, Horner thinks his team was justified in sticking to its guns. When asked if the team needed to gamble in doing something different considering the pace advantage the RB7 has, Horner said: "Yes you do, if you want to win the race.
"From P3, you have got to take a slight gamble. As we saw last weekend with Lewis [Hamilton], it is right on the knife edge and it very nearly worked for us today. The problem is that there is not a crystal ball with these tires and it is tricky."
Horner reckons that Vettel could still have won on a two-stop strategy if he had been able to eke out just a bit more distance from his first two sets of tires.
"We probably needed to get one or two laps on both sets of options and we would have done it, but it was bloody close," he said. "We did not expect [Felipe] Massa and [Nico] Rosberg to drop off quite as dramatically as they did, and Lewis went straight through them. It was close. It was not a disaster but it was a gamble that didn't quite pay off – but at the point we made the gamble we had been P3 coming out of Turn 2.
"I think if we had run in clear air, and made the start, then we would have gotten those few laps longer on both of those stints, and I don't think it would have been a problem. We stopped earlier than we would have liked on the first stint because you are running in dirty air. Had he made the start he would have been fine, because you are then in a position to more control your pace and look after your tires. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and this time it went against us."