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Formula 1 Dutch GP

Horner surprised Mercedes didn't use Russell to protect Hamilton in F1 Dutch GP

Christian Horner was "quite surprised" by Mercedes' late-race pit calls in the Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix, fearing Max Verstappen would face a two-on-one fight for victory.

The Safety Car Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, George Russell, Mercedes W13

Verstappen controlled proceedings at the front of the pack for much of Sunday's race at Zandvoort, only for a late-race safety car following Valtteri Bottas's stoppage to throw a curveball.

Red Bull opted to give up track position and pit Verstappen for a fresh set of soft tyres, while Mercedes kept Lewis Hamilton out on his existing set of mediums ahead of teammate George Russell to sit first and second.

But Mercedes then brought Russell into the pits one lap later, lifting Verstappen up to second place for the restart. With his fresh set of softs, Verstappen swept past Hamilton along the main straight as soon as the race resumed before easing to his 10th victory of the season.

Red Bull F1 boss Horner admitted it was a difficult call to give up track position at Verstappen's home race, leaving him surprised when Mercedes brought Russell in.

"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.

"I was quite surprised that they didn't leave George out strategically as a rear gunner for Lewis. When he pitted, it gave a straight fight between Max and Lewis with a tyre offset.

"By the time they came past us on the pit wall, Max was already alongside, and thereafter, it was a matter of controlling the race."

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13, battles with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, for the lead after the restart

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13, battles with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, for the lead after the restart

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Horner added the team was concerned that Verstappen would have been "exposed" had Red Bull kept him out on hard tyres, and instead preferred "to go attack than trying to hang on at the front."

"My biggest concern was it would be two against one," Horner said.

"But when George seemed to pit himself, that then freed up a one-on-one fight with Max versus Lewis."

Verstappen admitted after the race there was "no way" he could have stayed out on the hard tyre, but said he did not ask Red Bull to pit for softs, instead trusting the pit wall to make the right call.

"I didn't request it, you have to trust your team as well to make the right calls, and they did," Verstappen said.

"They boxed me, put the soft tyre on, and then we dropped back but of course George pitted for softs, so we're back into P2.

"Surprisingly we had a really good restart, and then with the extra top speed we have over Mercedes, I could get a run into Turn 1."

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