Unrest at Red Bull?


Saudi Arabian event suggests that all is still not well between Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

While social media inevitably focussed on Jos Verstappen's "petulant" reaction as the Mexican celebrated with his team in the moments after winning the race - the Dutchman staring determinedly straight ahead as the Mexican hugged his crew just inches away - the rest of us looked to the radio messages from the pair in the final stages of the race.

Having worked his way through the field to second - a feat he insists he would have achieved even without the intervention of the Safety Car - Verstappen was closing on his teammate when he began to hear a worrying noise from his car.

Having suffered a driveshaft failure during qualifying, much like his counterparts at Ferrari, the Dutchman is understandably concerned at the reliability of his car. Though assured that all was well, the two-time champ wasn't convinced.

Out front, Perez was given a target time of "1:33", to which he responded, "What time is Max doing?"

"1:32.6" came the response. "So why are you telling me to do 1m33.0s?" he asked.

Meanwhile, in the other car, Verstappen, who was steadily closing on his teammate, was ignoring repeated calls to also maintain a target of 1:33.

"We are pushing without a reason," said Perez, who was effectively told that the team couldn't get the Dutchman to slow.

As a result, Perez put his foot to the floor, and maintained the gap, and in the final stages of the race Verstappen changed his tact.

"What's the fastest lap?" he asked, following a long period of radio silence.

"We're not concerned about that at the moment, Max," he was told.

"Yeah, but I am," he stormed, going on to post the fastest lap of the race, which in turn gave him the lead in the championship, which until the moment he crossed the line belonged to his teammate who had previously been quickest.

It all brought back echoes of Brazil last year, when Verstappen resolutely refused to yield to his teammate.

"I told you already last time," he snapped at the time, "you guys don't ask that again to me, OK? Are we clear about that? I gave my reasons and I stand by it."

Though he was all smiles - unlike his Dad - by the time he reached the podium, at the subsequent press conference Verstappen admitted that he wasn't happy.

"I recovered second which is good and of course in general the whole feeling in the team, everyone is happy," he said.

"But personally I am not happy because I am not here to be second, especially when you are working very hard also back at the factory to make sure that you arrive here in a good state and basically making sure that everything is spot on.

"And then you have to do a recovery race, which I like. I don't mind doing it. But when you're fighting for a championship and especially when it looks like it's just between two cars, you have to make sure that also the two cars are reliable."

Referring to the radio messages surrounding the fastest lap, Verstappen said: "With a few laps to go, I asked what the fastest lap was. We were first of all free to race and of course we had a target lap time to the end. It's a point on the line, it was the same also in Bahrain it got asked so especially when it's just between the two cars, I think it's quite normal that you asked for what the fastest lap is."

"Yeah, I asked two laps from the end, while they were telling us... where they told me to keep a certain pace," said Perez. "They told me I had the fastest lap and to keep the pace, a certain pace. So I thought the communication was the same to Max or something.

"We need to review because I got certainly the different information and I just couldn't push it there," he added.

" I think the team did a fantastic job in letting us race," the Mexican continued. "I just felt like there was a point where, I don't know, for the last ten laps or so, that we had very similar pace within a tenth faster or slower.

"I just felt like the gap, it would have been probably a little bit less or a little bit more. But it wouldn't have changed anything.

"I was just thinking about the car, just making sure, I was having some strange vibrations, and what happened to Max was in the back of my mind today and I'm sure it was in the back of the mind of the team as well. So it's just a matter of making sure both cars finished to get maximum points."

Asked if he believes Perez will be his main opponent, and if so how he will deal with it, the Dutchman said: "Well, if that's the case it's fairly simple, right? We are allowed to race so the best one will finish in front."

"If that's the case, then it will be fantastic news for the team," added Perez, "because that means that we are pretty far ahead and it comes down to us so it will mean that we are in a great position."

Sit back folks, it looks like it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Jeddah here.

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Published: 20/03/2023
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