Adrian Newey revealed Red Bull considered one-stopping Sebastian Vettel in Abu Dhabi but feared a sudden drop-off in his tyres would cost him dearly.
The reigning World Champion was one of the first to pit in Sunday's 55-lap grand prix as he came in for a new nose on lap 13.
Vettel worked his way up to second place behind Kimi Raikkonen and his Championship rival Fernando Alonso behind him in third.
However, Red Bull feared that if he had run the final 42 laps on that one set of Prime tyres and they suddenly dropped off, he would have plummeted down the order.
So instead they pitted Vettel with 18 to go and the German came out in fourth before taking third off Jenson Button.
"We had the debate of course and we looked at the wear from Mark [Webber]'s tyres once they came off," Red Bull's design guru told Sky Sports F1.
"It was tantalisingly close that's for sure but as we've so often seen, if you overcook it then suddenly you've thrown away crunch loads of time and instead of finishing, as it turned out, third he could have ended up back in eighth again or something.
"So we didn't think we were quite going to make it, unless there was another Safety Car, but we couldn't take that gamble. So as soon as he was clear of [Romain] Grosjean then we elected to pit."