According to former Renault team principal Flavio Briatore, Max Verstappen would have had a better chance of winning the race if he had been pitted earlier.
Briatore believes Verstappen had a great opportunity to win the race and capitalize on an extremely fast car at the Dutchman's disposal. The Italian also believes that Mercedes will be dominant in some races, but that Red Bull have a good chance of competing for the title this season.
“In Bahrain, I think the Dutchman [Verstappen] would have won the race. Red Bull should have pitted him earlier for the tire change. However, the car is performing very well. There will be dominance by the Mercedes at some races but certainly Red Bull can compete for the championship given Verstappen’s performance."
Max Verstappen did the right thing in giving back the position: Flavio Briatore
At the Bahrain Grand Prix, Max Verstappen took pole position and led the race in the early stages. It wasn't until Mercedes decided to pit earlier than usual that they could perform the undercut on Red Bull. However, at the end of the race, with tires that were 10 laps younger than Hamilton, Max Verstappen caught Hamilton at a rapid pace.
On lap 53, Max Verstappen finally made the move on Hamilton but completed the overtake with four wheels off the track. The maneuver was deemed illegal by race control, and Verstappen was told to give the position back.
Speaking about the call made to cede the position to Hamilton, Briatore felt it was the right thing for Red Bull and Max Verstappen to do at that stage.
The Italian said:
"That was a correct decision on the part of the team because they had noticed it and such a call is normal."
Briatore also commented on Red Bull's strategic decisions during the race, calling their lack of reaction to Mercedes' undercut attempt a "mistake."
"The first mistake was not to call him back to the pits earlier because he had used tires and Hamilton kept taking three- to four-tenths per lap off him but it was a good show.”
Briatore pointed out that Mercedes caught Red Bull out by being flexible in their strategy. The Silver Arrows had two drivers around Max Verstappen, which allowed the team to split their strategy, much to Red Bull's dismay. However, with 23 races on the calendar, the pendulum is bound to swing between Mercedes and Red Bull.
Red Bull and Max Verstappen need to make the most of the opportunities presented to them. The team had the fastest car on the grid at the Bahrain Grand Prix, but their inability to get the win could prove to be significant at the end of the season. Mercedes and Hamilton are well-oiled machines, and the team has proved that they can win races without having the fastest car. Against such a dominant force, Red Bull must capitalize on every chance they get.