Christian Horner says it was “normal” for Sergio Perez to express concerns about Max Verstappen’s pace during the closing stages of the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia.
Leader Perez and his Red Bull teammate Verstappen were pressing hard in the last laps of the Jeddah race, as the Mexican managed to keep the difference.
However, Verstappen heard a strange noise that led the team to study the data for signs of a possible repeat of the Dutch driveshaft failure in qualifying, while Perez worried about his long brake pedal.
At that point, after Perez was told to slow down, he was keen to see if Verstappen did the same.
In the end, the team gave both drivers the green light to continue pushing before they could control the pace again when it became clear that Verstappen could not catch Perez.
However, Verstappen then managed to take the fastest point from his teammate towards the end of the race.
“Once we got into the last five laps and it was clear that Max wasn’t going to catch up to it, then they got out of it and traveled in no time,” Horner said.
“I think the biggest point of concern for us during the Grand Prix was when Max radioed about 15 laps in to say he heard a high-pitched noise at high speed and so your heart sinks in immediately, thinking about the driveshaft failure yesterday.
“But checking all the data we have here, all they could see back in Milton Keynes. All the criteria we had looked fine. And obviously, then they moved forward again.”
Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19
Photography: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Pictures
Regarding the request from the pitwall for Perez to spin in “target plus 0.4s,” Horner explained: “It was when we thought we had an issue with the driveshaft, so it was just an effort to build up a little bit of the margin.”
At that point Perez asked if Verstappen was doing the same, adding that the drivers were “pushing for no reason” due to reliability concerns. Horner said he understood why Perez was worried.
“It will always be when you’re the lead car,” he said. “You always want to know that the back car hit the target first. So that’s totally normal. I think for us as a team, we were worried about if there was a reliability issue, how do we manage that?
“Once we saw that there was no problem that we could see in the data, it was a matter of letting them move on with it, and then basically managing the last five cycles.”
He explained that the drivers are free to race: “The only discussions were about speed management when the shaft problem became prevalent.
“At this point he thought nicely, let’s dismiss both cars. But once it became clear we couldn’t see anything in the data, we fired the cars again.”
Horner said the team was happy to let Verstappen push for the fastest lap at the end of the race.
“Well, I guess we came to the conclusion that you know what, it’s the last lap. If he’s going, he’s going.
So I think he had already come to that conclusion himself. Both drivers had the information. Checo had the fastest lap at that point, he asked what it was.
So it was obvious why he was asking. He knew Max would have a crack at it. And Checo gave up on him after the first two laps, he was already a tenth and a half away, and then I saw him backing off.
“I think you get the message across to the driver, of course the interest of the team is to maximize the points and any time you feel you might have a reliability issue you obviously manage that.
“I think Max inevitably said on the radio that the fastest lap point meant a lot to him and there was no reason why we couldn’t leave him or Chico behind.”
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