Horner: Red Bull needs to look into “weak” hard tyre stint that left Verstappen vulnerable to Norris in F1 Imola GP

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Red Bull team principal and CEO, Christian Horner has said that Red Bull will carry some analysis before the next F1 race in Monaco to understand why their car lost so much performance – especially compared to Lando Norris’ McLaren – in the latter stages of the 2024 Emilia Romagna GP, as the degradation of the hard tyres started to kick in.

Max Verstappen was leading comfortably on the medium tyres in the opening stint of the grand prix, but as the second stint unfolded on the hard tyres, the pendulum swung towards Norris and McLaren in the final 15 laps of the race, as the Briton started to rapidly catch the Dutchman and put up a very respectable late charge for the win at Imola, however the three-time world champion was able to soak up the pressure and still win the race.

Speaking after the race at Imola, Horner explained how temperature issues held Red Bull back in the second stint, as they couldn’t keep enough heat in the used hard tyres to generate the same grip that Norris was able to utilise – something McLaren suffered from, although at the overheating end of the spectrum, in the first stint.

“On the first stint on the medium, it felt like we’ve got everything under control,” said Horner. “Max [Verstappen] was able to build up, I think, up to an eight-second gap around the pit stop. And the car was performing very, very well on the medium, and particularly some of the areas we’ve been weak on. Friday in sector two, you know, he was very much setting the pace.

“After we changed on to the hard tyre, first half of the stint was absolutely fine. But as the gauge wears down on the tyre, temperature becomes crucial, and we just started to lose temperature in the tyre. And with that, the performance started to [drop off].

“We didn’t get as much out of the tyre as Lando [Norris], who at one point looked like he was very much under pressure from [Charles] Leclerc. And then suddenly, their car turned on, and he started to come hard at the end of the race.”

The 50-year-old admitted that at one point Red Bull had its focus on Leclerc’s mid-race charge on the hard tyres, but was then stunned by McLaren’s impressive form on the latter part of the race, which leaves Red Bull to “look into” the potential reasons why they weren’t so competitive in the final few laps:

“I think for the first 40 laps, we were in a really good window and able to manage the gap.

“After he came out, the gap dropped to six seconds, but he was able to hold it there. And at that point, it looked more like our eyes were on Leclerc. Was he going to make the step and was he going to pose a challenge? But, you know, Lando, whatever window they managed to get their tyre into, suddenly their car came very much alive.

“It just shows how sensitive these tyres are to the different conditions.

“I think actually what we managed to achieve on the medium tyre was very strong. I think we need to look at, you know, why were we weak in the second half. It was only the second half of the stage on the hard tyre compared to Lando.”

According to Horner, the team lacked data on how the hard tyres would perform on Sunday’s grand prix as it opted not to run the hardest of the Pirelli rubber on Friday practice in order to save it for the race, something that “in hindsight” they should have done differently:

“I think probably with hindsight, we would have maybe been better running a hard on Friday, just because we had opted to take two new hard tyres into the race. And maybe it would have been better to have got the information on the tyre. But when you look at the turnaround that we had from Friday into Saturday to get the pole, and then to get the victory again today, it’s been a phenomenal performance and turnaround by the team.

“But also Max has been incredible this weekend. And again, he’s had to work very hard for both the pole position and the victory.”

Another point of consideration was Verstappen’s black-and-white flag for track limits violations, which he received very early in the race and meant he had to drive carefully in order to avoid going over the white lines and earning himself a potential 5-second time penalty from the stewards.

“I think the other thing that made it particularly stressful in the last stage of the race was that Max had already had three strikes on track limits. So we couldn’t afford, or Max couldn’t afford to make a single mistake on the limits.

“He delivered brilliantly, so despite significant pressure, he was able to manage it and keep Lando just out of the DRS,” Horner concluded.