Christian Horner downplays Sergio Perez’s claim RB19 issues behind Melbourne woes

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez in the gravel. Melbourne, Australia. March 2023.

Sergio Perez in the gravel. Melbourne, Australia. March 2023.

Christian Horner has downplayed Sergio Perez’s comments his RB19 was to blame for his qualifying disaster, the team boss saying it was more a case of “all the bits and pieces together weren’t quite perfect”.

Perez had a nightmare Saturday at the Australian Grand Prix where he seemed to be off the track more often than on it during the weekend’s final practice session, only for it to go from bad to worse in qualifying.

The Mexican driver lost it at the start of Q1 when he went straight on at Turn 3 and into the gravel where he beached his car, his qualifying session over without a time on the board.

Perez blamed the car, saying that “already in FP3 we had this issue, we thought we had fixed it, but obviously we didn’t.”

Helmut Marko, though, blamed the driver as he felt he was “insecure and impetuous”. He added that Perez’s earlier “problems were actually gone from practice.”

With the driver down in P20, Red Bull opted for a pit lane start as they changed his RB19’s Control Electronics and Energy Store and also tweaked his set-up.

He raced from the pit lane to P5 and revealed Red Bull “changed a lot of things in the car, on the engine side and on the brake balance, and the chassis.”

But it seems that was done more for the driver’s peace of mind than because it was needed.

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“We changed a few components on the car that may have contributed to it [Perez’s qualifying off],” Horner said as per Motorsport.com. “And I think that it didn’t sound like there was any reoccurrence of it in the race, so that was good news.

“I think that he had a very difficult P3 which was by far from the best preparation, and then obviously he went out, was pushing hard on that first lap.

“He was late and hard on the brakes into T3. All the bits and pieces together weren’t quite perfect, but often these cars aren’t.”

Asked to shed light on the brake balance problem that Perez had complained about, Horner explained: “It’s something that they control in the car. I think we had a bit of the engine running on in P3, but the levels that we saw in qualifying were nothing abnormal.”

Australia needs to be a one-off if Perez wants to fight for the World title

Having arrived in Melbourne one point behind Max Verstappen in the race for the World title, Perez left trailing his team-mate by 15 points.

He needs to ensure his Australian Grand Prix nightmare was the one and only such weekend of his season or he can say goodbye to the World title.

Verstappen is a formidable competitor and last season, with his nose in the wind after he hit the front in the standings at the Spanish Grand Prix, he never looked back as he won 11 of the next 16 races and the Drivers’ Championship title.

Perez, having been just nine points behind after Monaco, could only watch as Verstappen went from strength to strength while his challenge faded away, lost in a brouhaha of complaints that Red Bull had upgraded the car to favour his team-mate.

This season trading P1 and P2s in the opening two rounds, Perez declared after Saudi Arabia in a quickly deleted tweet that he wants to win the World title.

But after his implosion in Australia, sharp contrast to Verstappen’s near flawless weekend, one has to wonder if it’s already over for the Mexican driver.