Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has revealed his 'surprise' at a Mercedes tactical decision in the closing stages of the Dutch Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen was leading the Zandvoort race when Valtteri Bottas' Alfra Romeo stopped and caused a safety car intervention on lap 56 of 72.
The Dutchman immediately pitted for soft tyres and handed the lead to Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
The latter elected one lap later to switch off his medium tyres and onto softs also, dropping back to third and leaving the seven-time champion unprotected from his former title rival.
"The bigger call came towards the end of the race when there was the full safety car where you’ve got your home driver leading in front of 105,000 people and you decide to pit him for the soft tyres and concede track position behind two Mercedes," said Horner of Red Bull's initial decision.
“I was quite surprised they didn’t leave George out strategically as a rear gunner for Lewis.
“So when he pitted, it gave a straight fight between Max and Lewis with a tyre offset, and by the time they came past us on the pit wall, Max was already alongside.
“Thereafter, it was a matter of controlling the race.
“Tactically, it was a tough one but the pit wall made the right calls today and read the strategy well.”
At the chequered flag, Hamilton was fourth behind Verstappen, Russell and Charles Leclerc.
Dutch GP "a complicated, strategic race"
The early stages of the race looked ominous as Verstappen methodically built a commanding lead, but when it became clear Mercedes was on a one-stop plan to combat the two stops of Ferrari and Red Bull, an intriguing battle began to unfold.
“It was quite a complicated, strategic race because going into it, a two-stop was the faster race and we had the new set of tyres with Max we felt were best strategically to use and make sure that we got a good start in that first stint," added Horner.
“That part all went to plan and then, of course, the VSC made life a little trickier because the pace of Mercedes seemed pretty strong on the hard tyre but they had got a huge stint to do on it.
“So at that point in time, we were going to go probably back to the soft tyre to give us...we knew we would probably concede track position but we had the pace with the offset.
“Then the virtual safety car came out and we switched to the hard tyre because of how we had seen it performing which again just protected track position for Max."