After the first three races of the season Max Verstappen occupies the sixth position in the championship standings with 25 points, 46 less than the leader Charles Leclerc. A lower loot even than the 2020 and 2019 seasons, years in which the world champion was not in the running for the world title.
There are no mysteries about the reasons that led to this situation, on the dock is the reliability of the Honda power unit, which is showing many shortcomings at the start of the season.
Verstappen’s Red Bull RB18 after his retirement in the Australian GP
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
During the 39th lap Verstappen started to smell petrol, and immediately after turn 2 the engine went into ‘protection’ forcing the Dutchman to pull over to the side of the track.
Up until that moment the best Red Bull had not been seen, but Max was still firmly in second position and ready to leave Australia with the eighteen points of the place of honor. “It seems a problem with the fuel system – confirmed Christian Horner – outside the tank. Now we will send everything to Japan (in Sakura’s R&D department) and we will try to understand what happened as soon as possible, also because it has nothing to do with what happened in Bahrain ”.
Christian Horner comments on Sergio Perez’s second place with the Mexican
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
To increase the fears of Red Bull there is a long list of failures (which also affected the AlphaTauri) ranging between different areas of the power unit.
“So far we have encountered independent problems between them – confirmed Horner – there is no common thread. We have to understand them and do it quickly, because even though we weren’t as fast today as Ferrari, we had a guaranteed second place, like in Bahrain. We left 36 points on the road, which becomes 50 as a team (calculating Perez’s stop in Sakhir). There are obviously still many races to go, but we have to solve these problems as soon as possible ”.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, notes the damage to the rear of his car
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
Verstappen’s engine failure was the most traumatic event of Red Bull’s Sunday, but net of the unexpected, the performance of the RB18 did not live up to expectations.
After keeping the lead at the start, Leclerc kept a prohibitive pace for Max, both on medium and hard tires.
“Their car was in the perfect tire window – Horner admitted – they had no problems, and this happens when you have a very good overall balance of the car. On Friday we encountered problems on the rear and to solve them we overbalanced ourselves to the point of bringing trouble to the front, especially with the medium set ”.
Perez’s place of honor avoided defeat, but in the Constructors’ classification, Red Bull still remains behind Mercedes, who have taken their lead to ten points. The team remains focused on the evolution of the RB18, but today the ‘reliability’ problem threatens to frustrate the efforts made at the Milton Keynes headquarters.
However, the work continues, updates are expected at Imola that the team described as a “planned package”, as no one wants to take risks.
“During the Imola weekend there will be the sprint race format – confirmed an engineer – we will have very little time available to evaluate the news (due to the freezing of the cars after the FP1 session) and we will have to be sure of what we will have on the car” .
Verstappen felt the pinch. After retiring in Bahrain, a second stop (at least initially) discouraged him, and only on the evening of Melbourne did he crack a smile.
“Now I’m going home – he confessed – I’ll talk to the team from there too. We will try to forget what happened today and we will focus on the next races. But at the moment there doesn’t seem to be a clear solution yet, so a lot of work awaits us to try to improve our reliability but also the general balance of our car, which at the moment is still inconstant. I will arrive in Imola to do my best, but I am aware that we are far behind in the championship standings, to get back to winning we must first think about finishing the races.