Christian Horner and second-placed Austrian GP finisher Max Verstappen both revealed post-race a reason as to how Charles Leclerc stole the victory away from the previously faster Red Bull on Sunday.

Reigning champion Verstappen took pole position in Friday’s qualifying which he then followed up with a straightforward victory in Saturday’s Sprint at his team’s home race. However, Sunday’s Grand Prix didn’t go quite as smoothly as expected for the Dutchman.

Post-race analysis clearly showed Verstappen struggling a lot more than Ferrari’s Leclerc to retain consistent purchase in the tyres in the latter stages of stints, suffering with a lot worse than anticipated tyre degradation as early as the tenth lap. This meant Leclerc could pass him for the lead on lap twelve and cover off any potential Red Bull undercut by pitting on the next lap.

Both Ferrari’s were quicker than Verstappen in race conditions on Sunday, but it was just Carlos Sainz’s luck to suffer from a fiery power unit failure as he sized up a move on Verstappen. His teammate Leclerc won the race, even after a throttle issue threatened to hand the lead back to the floundering Verstappen in the last few laps.

“It was a bit more difficult than I expected it to be,” Verstappen said when asked how his run to second place felt behind the wheel. “Basically on any tyre I was just struggling a lot for pace after a few laps, just a lot of deg [degradation]. It’s something I cannot really explain right now – why it was so high – because I think normally we are quite okay on the tyres and I expected it to be tough today, but I didn’t expect it to be like this.

“So it’s just something we need to analyse and understand why this happened today. Even on a bad day, let’s say an off day, to only lose five points over the whole weekend is, I think, still good.”

Verstappen lost his previously insurmountable lead to Leclerc on only the aforementioned twelfth lap, in what was an aggressive move from the Monegasque, but one in which space was given and horns weren’t locked as aggressively as in the 2019 race between the pair.

“I think it was just very good racing from all of us. Of course, sometimes you’re on different kinds of tyres or age of tyres, but I think everything was good,” explained Verstappen. “Of course, this year, I think also this weekend, in terms of like the moving [under braking], and stuff with breaking the tow has been a bit updated. But overall I think it was good – good fighting.”

Team principal Horner believes the lack of pace at certain points in the race is not something the Red Bull team should be overly worried about, but recommends that the team attempts to understand why there was such a noticeable change in performance.

“The degradation when you look at the sprint race, we pushed a bit harder at the beginning, paid a little bit at the end, but over the whole stint was, on our analysis, identical to that of Ferrari,” Horner says. “So the only thing that’s changed overnight is the rain, the temperature slightly and of course the fuel loads.

“We just need to understand why in that first stint our deg was significantly worse than Charles and Carlos’, and I think once we got ourselves into that position we converted immediately to a two stop, but they had the sufficient pace that they were able then to cover with the two stops. The VSC bought us back into play at the end of the race but unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, but it’s one of those things.”

He later pointed to the sensitivity of the Pirelli tyres being the major problem, but concedes that it wasn’t only the Red Bull team that was setback by unexpected tyre issues. Ever since the Emila Romagna Grand Prix however, Red Bull have looked to be on top of degradation.

“It was strange,” he admits. “I mean, again, just one week ago at Silverstone we looked pretty decent on deg as well. So, you know, I think the problem is these tyres are quite sensitive and if you’re not in the right window with them, then you can pay a penalty in terms of degradation, which a lot of teams did.”

Here’s Max Verstappen, Christian Horner on fan beahviour