Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has revealed it was Max Verstappen alone who made the crucial call that limited the damage to Lewis Hamilton at the end of the Russian Grand Prix.
Verstappen was forced to start last on the grid at the Sochi Autodrom after taking a power unit penalty that appeared to leave him with a tricky task of claiming even a handful of points.
But Verstappen climbed his way through the field and was on course for sixth before he capitalised on late rain to claim second behind race-winner Hamilton, who only has a two-point lead with seven races remaining.
“It just shows that it’s not over until the chequered flag falls," said Horner. "When you looked at the progress Max had made relative to the other back row starters it was really impressive.
“It was looking, a few laps from the end, as if we were going to be probably P6, so Max got the call right to go onto the inters and it worked out well for him. To get P2, get the engine penalty done, is more than we could have hoped for.
“With the crossover [decision between dry and wet tyres], the call is always with the driver. They can feel the level of grip and what they can cope with, they can see more when the weather is on top of us, to the point that you need an inter.
"[The weather forecast] was saying rain was around, [but] it’s not telling you how much or whether it’s going to stop or start or keep going.
“So it was very tricky to read. The drivers have more vision of that out on circuit. You could see it was coming for a few laps, then it was either going to pass and dry or intensify and so it was a little bit of a gamble.
“That is how we operate, that crossover is down to the driver to call and I think Max made a great call there.”
Horner - Perez could have had a podium
Horner said he felt sorry for Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez, who took the opposite decision and paid the price for staying out when the rain began falling harder with a few laps to go.
Horner said: “Checo rolled the dice and wanted to stay out and from a team point of view that was splitting our options. Max benefitted from making that call to pit and unfortunately Checo paid the penalty by asking to stick."
Perez had already had his race hampered by a slow pit stop, which dropped him down the order and forced him to also fight his way back up through the field before the rain came down.
Horner added: “We had a very slight delay on the wheel off and then the clutch, he spun up the rear wheel, which then took more time to re-engage the wheel, so it was frustrating.
“Otherwise he would have been a clear third, but he got himself back into that position before the rain came. I think Checo drove a great race and should have been on the podium.”