Red Bull team principal Christian Horner revealed a fear of the 'Barcelona scenario' where Mercedes pipped Max Verstappen to the victory in Spain drove the team to switch to a French Grand Prix-winning two-stop strategy.
With tyre degradation levels higher than expected at the Paul Ricard Circuit, Red Bull made the decision to pit race-leader Verstappen for a second time at the end of lap 32, allowing him to pass Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap.
In Spain, it was Mercedes that pulled the trigger on a second stop, leaving Red Bull in a no-win scenario as Lewis Hamilton claimed victory.
On this occasion, the tables were turned, notwithstanding an error from Verstappen into the first corner that allowed Hamilton to sweep by into the lead.
"It was an interesting race because I think the wind caught Max out at the first turn so he was lucky to survive the first turn," Horner told Sky Sports F1.
"Then Lewis in clean air, you could see sector one and sector three was very strong.
"We thought before the race that the undercut wasn't going to be as powerful as it was today but I guess that is why Mercedes left Lewis out for two laps.
"We went for it with Max and the pace on his out lap was phenomenal.
"Then of course you are in a horrible position, a bit like Barcelona, and you think they can't do it again. That is why we went for the stop and then it was down to Max having to make up the ground on the track."
Hamilton fought fair
Unlike recent circuits in Monaco and Azerbaijan, Le Castellet is a track that favours the attacking driver with wide run-off areas limiting the punishment for an unsuccessful passing attempt.
Even though the opportunity was there for Hamilton to defend his lead, Horner praised the seven-time champion for his "very fair" behaviour.
"We could see Lewis was pretty much through to the band of the tyre so there could have been nothing left on that tyre," added Horner, referring to Hamilton's second-stint hard-compound rubber.
"Max, he had five laps, six laps to do it after he cleared Valtteri [Bottas] so he got his head down and in the end I have to say Lewis was very fair with the pass.
"He didn't defend hard or aggressively and it was a very clean move."
What do you think?
Congrats to Max, fantastic drive.
With two more races Red Bull Ring Lewis/Mercedes have some work to do.
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