Horner opens up on Verstappen v Perez fastest lap battle

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has opened up on the team radio discussions between Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen and the pit wall during the second half of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Christian Horner has confirmed both Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen were both made aware of the situation regarding the fastest lap at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

The Red Bull pair traded fastest laps in the second half of the race before Verstappen noted he had vibrations but was keen to get the extra point for the quickest lap.

He said on the team radio “it’s my concern” and set the fastest lap of the race on the last lap to retain the championship lead from Perez by one point.

“I think we came to the conclusion that, you know what, it’s the last lap, if it’s gonna go, it’s gonna go,” Horner told reporters. “So I think he’d already come to that conclusion himself.

“Both drivers had the info. Checo had the fastest lap. At that point, he asked what it was. So it was obvious why he was asking. He knew that Max was going to have a crack at it.

“Checo gave it up after the first couple of turns, he was already 0.15 down, and then you saw him back out of it.”

He added: “I think that you pass the message onto the driver. Of course, the team’s interest is to maximise the points and whatever point you feel that you may have a reliability issue, then you obviously manage that.

“Inevitably, as Max said on the radio, the point for the fastest lap meant a great deal to him and there was no reason for us not to let either him Checo have a crack at it.”

Pace only debated when driveshaft problem occurred

During the team radio discussions at Red Bull, there were questions about whether both drivers were told to bring the car home.

Perez was told to aim for a target lap time which he appeared to be bewildered by, but Horner says the team have “two very mature drivers” who listened to the rules of engagement.

“The only debate about pace was when the issue with the driveshaft became prevalent,” added Horner.

“At that point you think, ‘OK, let’s turn down both cars. But as soon as it became clear that we couldn’t see anything in the data we released the cars again.”

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez during the press conference for the Saudi Arabian GP | Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Do Red Bull have a reliability problem?

Verstappen admitted he was not happy about finishing second due to his drivetrain failure in qualifying that saw him start the race from 15th.

Red Bull also has problems during pre-season testing with the drivetrain and Horner remained coy on whether they had a fundamental issue.

“It’s something that we need to understand,” said Horner. “We have got all the parts. The great thing is there’s nothing that’s gone missing.

“So we just need to learn from it going forward. If there’s a design tweak or not, I don’t know. But obviously we have got four samples of it running in both our car in and the AlphaTauris.”

Max Verstappen of Red Bull during final practice ahead of 2023 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Horner lauds Red Bull for dominant car

Red Bull have dominated the two opening Formula 1 race weekends so far, with their race pace generally being over one second quicker than the rest of the field.

They already have a 49-point lead over Aston Martin and Mercedes in the constructors’ championship due to their back-to-back 1-2 results.

Horner gave huge praise to everyone at Milton Keynes for their efforts over the winter.

“I think the team is operating at an incredibly high level. Throughout the organisation because you don’t get a result like this by just one department doing it,” said Horner.

“It’s all aspects, whether it’s the aero team, whether it’s the design office, whether it’s vehicle dynamics, whether it’s the production side, business operation, the trackside is such a small percentage of who we are.

“This is testimony to that work that goes on behind the scenes.”

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