Verstappen was under intense pressure from a chasing Lewis Hamilton in the final stages of the race from Austin as they approached Schumacher’s Haas car.
But rather than immediately jumping out of the way, Schumacher stayed in his line for a number of turns before stopping running until the last turn.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner said those moments left him worried that Verstappen would lose ground to Hamilton and allow rival Mercedes to come within range of the DRS for a pass.
Ultimately, however, Schumacher’s delay in getting out of the lane allowed Verstappen to reclaim a DRS activation, which he used to slightly evade Hamilton in the start-finish straight of the final lap.
Reflecting on this point in the race, Horner said: “It is very difficult to factor laggards into your strategy.
“We lost a lot of time behind Yuki [Tsunoda] then Mick Schumacher was pretty expensive in the last two rounds. I thought it was going to cost us the win because he held Max in the entire last sector.
“But luckily we got the DRS back in the starting straight, which at least gave Max a bit of a break in Turn 1. But it certainly added to the stress on the pit wall.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, 1st position, takes the victory to the delight of his team on the pit wall
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
The worrying moment with Schumacher came after Red Bull opted for an aggressive strategy by looking for new tires at the start, when Verstappen got locked behind Hamilton in the opening stages of the race.
Horner said Red Bull’s decision to go for the early release was driven by fears Verstappen could kill his stuck rear tires in Hamilton’s wake.
“I think we were faster in the middle and Max could see Lewis was sliding a lot,” said Horner.
“We were in danger of overheating our own tires and getting a bit stuck, so we decided to take the bet and find some fresh air. This would then put us under pressure at the end of the race.
“It was inevitable that Mercedes would run a long time, but we were able to push them to change from the first stint by getting Checo [Sergio Perez] inside too.
“But of course they then had the option of staying long in that intermediate stint, which gave them an eight-lap advantage on the tires until the end of the race.
“But Max has done a fantastic job handling the degradation and having enough rear tires for those crucial final five laps as Lewis looms on the horizon. What a phenomenal performance from him.”
When asked if he would rate Verstappen’s calculated performance at Austin as his best driver ever, Horner said: “I think it’s up there.
“I think he handled the race incredibly well. Obviously we didn’t have a good start, but we were able to get the win back.
“It was an aggressive strategy, we went there and we managed to make it work. So I think it’s a big win for us on a circuit where Lewis and Mercedes have obviously been so dominant in the era. hybrid.”