Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has conceded Sergio Perez would have been a "dying fly" had he not made a second pit stop at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Mexican narrowly missed out on securing Red Bull's first F1 championship one-two after failing to finish ahead of Charles Leclerc on track at Yas Marina.
Perez made a strong start and held onto second ahead of the Ferrari driver but an early pit stop allowed Leclerc to create a six-lap tyre delta at the end of the first stint.
A second stop came for Perez as Leclerc closed in and with the Monégasque then switching to a one-stop, the RB18 set off in chase.
But ultimately Perez came up a lap short in his pursuit, forced to settle for third in both the race and the championship.
"Both drivers had good starts and I think Checo took a bit more out of the front right tyre," said Horner.
"It just started to open up, now whether that was a slight difference in set-up or different technique, we need to analyse.
"You could hear him on the radio saying the front was dead and Ferrari were gearing up for an undercut.
"The problem with where Checo was strategically at that point, it would have been a very long one-stop and there was a six or seven-lap overlap that Leclerc was then able to take.
"So we were faced with the prospect of either being a dying fly at the end of the stint or to try and attack. We chose to try and attack and within another lap he would have been there."
Offering acknowledgement to Leclerc's efforts, Horner added: "I have to say congratulations to Charles, he has driven extremely well this year.
"He obviously had a lot of bad luck as well as our drivers at times but he has been a great driver to race against and always very fair.
"For sure, they will come back fighting hard next year."