Perez was running third in the closing stages at Austin, with second placed Hamilton on course to grab the extra championship point that comes from taking the fastest lap.
With the title battle between Verstappen and Hamilton so tightly poised, one of the features of this season has been of Mercedes and Red Bull trying to deny their rival the extra fastest lap by using their second drivers.
Most famously at the British Grand Prix, Perez had been running in 10th place – and looked on course to move up the order – when Red Bull ordered him to give up a points scoring finish to take fastest lap from Hamilton.
At Austin on Sunday, Perez was not in a position to have a free pit stop with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc within range in the closing stages, so a late call for fresh tyres would have dropped him out of the top three.
And, on a day when Perez had battled against illness and dehydration caused by a broken drinks system, Red Bull agrees it would have been too much to ask him to give up the podium simply to hurt Hamilton.
“It would have been brutal to pit Checo and take him off the podium,” said Horner when asked by Autosport about why they opted against going for the fastest lap.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, 3rd position, lifts his trophy
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
“Leclerc was obviously too close behind. In the collective position of the team it was better for Checo to take the points. So that’s what we did.”
Perez’s third place in Austin was his second consecutive podium finish, and comes at a time when Red Bull knows he can play a crucial role in the championship battle.
Horner said that what Perez delivered in America, against the backdrop of being ill, was impressive and shows that he is now getting on top of the RB16B car.
“The way he managed the race, you could see his confidence is growing,” Horner told Sky.
“That’s the second race in a row he’s on the podium now. His home race is coming up. He’s finding his form, which is crucial for us at this time of the year.”