With Max Verstappen starting down in 10th on the grid after his engine problem in qualifying, and team-mate Sergio Perez one place further back, Red Bull’s simulations had shown that the best route to deliver a good result was to have a long first stint on the hard.
But difficulties that both drivers had in switching even the soft tyre on en route to the grid prompted Red Bull to scrap its initial idea.
That proved to be a hugely significant move, as struggles that a number of rivals – including Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – had with the hard showed it would have doomed Red Bull to a very difficult opening phase of the race rather than put on a charge on the soft that helped secure it the win.
“Our strategy was out of the window after the laps to the grid,” explained Verstappen.
“We had to change it around and make a new one. But I don’t think that’s very hard for the team: they’re very flexible, and they know what they’re doing.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner reckoned, knowing how hard things had been for the drivers on the laps out to the grid, that it would have been “ludicrous” to have gone ahead with its original plan.
“We were going to start the race on the hard tyre because statistically, that looked like our best race,” he said.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren MCL36, Mick Schumacher, Haas VF-22, Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-22, Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C42, the remainder of the field on the opening lap
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“But the drivers were struggling to generate temperature in the soft tyre on the way to the grid. And it felt ludicrous to be starting the race on a hard tyre, particularly with some weather around.
“We converted both drivers on the grid to the soft tyre, which committed us very much to a two stop. But we made it work today, and it played out beautifully.”
Verstappen agreed it was an absolute no brainer to scrap the hard tyre plan once it become clear how difficult it was going to be to switch the rubber on.
“I went to the grid on the soft tyres and I was already struggling for grip, so I was like: ‘no way we’re gonna start on the hard’,” he explained.
“It’s also credit to the team because we, of course, plan the strategy around the hard tyre, and then we are like, ‘OK, we’re switching it to a soft.’
“I’m very happy that we did because the hard tyre was really, really tough. And you could see that with Charles and Carlos, they were sliding around a lot.”