Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner says that the team had no choice but to pit Mark Webber for a third time with less than 15 laps remaining in the Hungarian Grand Prix due to a differential issue on the Australian's car.
Webber dropped from fifth to his eventual finishing position of eighth with the additional stop, costing a net eight points to championship leader Fernando Alonso.
The issues came after Webber had made an uncharacteristically strong start, launching from 11th on the grid to seventh before completing the first two stints of the race on the prime compound tyres.
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Webber told reporters after the race that electing against completing the race with the option tyres taken at his second stop had been a mistake.
“I think we were hoping people would be in a bit more trouble at the end with the tyres,” he said of the strategy.
“That's where we lost the three positions. Fifth place was there.
“I was thinking of staying out. Obviously we had a nice cushion and lap times were going pretty well, but it's always hard to know.
“We've had plenty of incidents this year where people drop off the (tyre degradation) cliff. In the end, the strategy didn't really work out. We lost three places through trying something different.
“Also overtaking is very difficult, so you need bad tyres for the other guys and a good run in the last sector. I was quicker but couldn't get the job done.”
Horner however said that Webber's strategy was dictated by a differential issue that had heightened tyre wear on his RB8.
“In the end, we had to stop,” said Horner.
“With the differential issue and the tyres, you have a lot of wheelspin on the inside tyre and there is no way those tyres will get to the finish so we had to stop.”
Webber's team-mate Sebastian Vettel joined the Australian in making a third stop for tyres late in the going, but did so in the knowledge that he would slot back into the race with his fourth place intact.
By contrast, McLaren's Jenson Button was arguably the worst affected by electing for a three-stopper.
The Briton had been running in third place – less than five seconds adrift of his race-leading team-mate Lewis Hamilton – when he was switched from a two-stop strategy as the halfway mark approached.
Button eventually finished sixth after losing time in traffic after both his second and third stops.
“I don't know why we pitted so early each time when the tyres were still in good condition,” he said after the race.
“I said to the guys ‘Is this traffic quicker than the guys we are racing?', and they said ‘no'…
“I didn't really think it was (a hard race on tyres) but the team obviously did,” he added.
“I wasn't going slow but we pitted early twice and it put me straight into traffic, which made it very difficult to race those guys. Obviously it was a slight misunderstanding of positioning on circuit. Every time I stopped it just got worse and worse.”
The 2012 Formula 1 World Championship now takes a mid-season break before continuing with the Belgian Grand Prix on September 2.