Christian Horner has suggested Lewis Hamilton was “more interested” in what Red Bull was up to in the final stages of qualifying after the Briton’s “gamesmanship” helped to secure a vital pole position.
Hamilton set a time of one minute 15.419secs to beat team-mate Valterri Bottas to pole position at the Hungarian Grand Prix but it was his antics on the out lap at the end of qualifying that raised eyebrows.
The Mercedes driver crawled down the pit lane, and in particular on the approach to the final two corners, to attempt to create a gap to Bottas ahead of him but held up both Red Bull drivers in the process.
Whilst Verstappen narrowly made it to the line in time to start a final flying lap, Sergio Perez was less fortunate and had to settle for fourth on the grid.
Asked by Sky Sports F1 if he had any gripes over Hamilton’s antics, Horner replied: “Not really, it’s just Hamilton playing games.
“Lewis has got a hell of a lap in the bank and then obviously he is just backing things up because he doesn’t want to give our cars a clean run.
“It is his right to do that. He has got the track position. We haven’t got a major issue, it is all about tomorrow now.”
On if his drivers would have performed a similar tactic if the boot had been on the other foot, he added: “I think we would have probably focused more on the preparation of our tyre because as you can see, his lap time was nowhere near his qualifying time.
“He was obviously more interested in what was going on behind but that is part of the game.”
Red Bull can take “encouragement” from performance
Red Bull has become the team most fancied to win each event in recent races, such was its dominance in a five-race winning streak before the British Grand Prix.
The four-tenths of a second gap between Hamilton and Verstappen in Hungary, however, was a surprise for Horner who still took the positives from Saturday’s running.
“We knew Silverstone and Budapest are very much Mercedes strongholds,” explained Horner.
“If you look at the performances last year, we were a second off in qualifying in Silverstone and more than that here last year.
“We can take encouragement that we are as close as we are and we have got to make sure we take the fight to them tomorrow.”