Max Verstappen survived a late temperature concern worth as many as three seconds a lap to Sergio Perez towards the end of the 2023 Italian Grand Prix, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has revealed.
Once he took the lead of the race, he swiftly drove off into the distance by opening up a nine-second gap to the chasing pack. However, it was not smooth sailing as towards the end of the race he had to manage a temperature issue that could have potentially led to a retirement.
“It was about the temperatures, to avoid them from going up further,” Helmut Marko, a Red Bull adviser said to media.
“We had to keep some of the temperatures within a certain window. Max was 12 seconds ahead as well, so there was no reason to push or take any risks.”
Perez rapidly closed in on Verstappen towards the end of the race, but either through design or luck, it was not enough for him to steal the win from his teammate.
The Mexican overtook Carlos Sainz for second place on Lap 46 and was 12 seconds adrift of the championship leader with five laps remaining, but when they took the chequered flag the gap had fallen to six seconds.
Verstappen might have got very lucky that Yuki Tsunoda‘s Red Bull engine failed prior on the formation lap and delayed the start, thus reducing the race length by two laps.
At the rate of pace difference Perez would have been right behind the world champion, although it’s unclear to what extent Verstappen was managing and whether he was on the limit.
Since he was not frantic on the radio broadcasts, it’s likely that driver and team did have the issue well under control.
Team principal Christian Horner revealed that the issue wasn’t an immediate concern, but could have reared its head if the Dutchman had caught back-marker traffic.
“It was a stinking hot day and we had a couple of temperatures that were under control,” Horner said. “But there was a bunch of cars ahead of Pierre [Gasly] and we just didn’t want to run in dirty air, that’s why we took it a little easier in the final laps.”