Red Bull checked to make sure both of their RB19s were generating similar downforce figures as Sergio Perez struggled to match Max Verstappen.
Sergio Perez qualified in 11th place and knocked out in Q2 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, after a tough session for the Mexican driver.
While not as disastrous as his Monaco Grand Prix qualifying last weekend that resulted in a 20th place grid slot, Perez only just scraped through Q1 before his struggles continued in Q2.
A mistake on what was due to be his final attacking lap in Q2 had him scampering through the gravel at Turn 5, regrouping for a further lap that resulted in a time almost six-tenths down on what his teammate managed to finish quickest with.
Perez was audibly disappointed after the latest blow to his championship hopes, radioing in to say “unbelievable” as he withdrew to the pits.
Christian Horner: It was one of those days for Sergio Perez
Speaking to Sky F1 after the session, Red Bull team boss addressed the issues that had hit his driver during the qualifying session.
“He just had a difficult qualifying,” Horner said.
“He went off and then the tyres cooled down trying to get that tyre temperature.
“He was lucky to get through Q1 into Q2 as the circuit was evolving and then, unfortunately, the off that he had in Q, I think it just unsettled him a little.
“Unfortunately, it was one of those days for him so P11 for him tomorrow leaves him with quite a bit to do.”
As for why Perez was struggling so much compared to Verstappen in the same car, Horner said the tyres were the likely culprit, revealing that the difference had been drastic enough to prompt the team to compare the car’s aero loads.
“I think the tyres are a crucial factor. We checked all the aero loads after Q1,” he said.
“So the support that we have back in the factory, they’re able to look at the analysis between the two cars – are the cars generating the same amount of downforce and they were like for like.
“So we couldn’t see anything any part misbehaving. Obviously, we’ll do a big inspection this evening, but I think it was just about getting the tyres in the window because we know Checo [Perez] is not that far off. It’s just that he didn’t get the car working today.”
Christian Horner: Sergio Perez can still have a great race
Asked how he will set about perking his driver up ahead of a second consecutive race in which the Mexican is starting from a compromised position, Horner said the team will work closely with him tonight in order to set his mind straight.
“It’s a matter of just picking him up and making sure that he goes into the race knowing that the points are scored on Sunday,” he said.
“It’s obviously harder for him starting from that grid position, but he can still have a great race from there. We know he’s a great racer. He’s just got to get his head down and hopefully, we can come up with a good strategy and make some good progress.”
With the final sector tweaked to remove the final chicane that usually compromised overtaking opportunities down the pit straight, Horner said the almost flat-out final corners mean a very different prospect awaits Perez compared to recent years at the same circuit.
“It’ll generate a different race because, basically, it’s gone old-school again,” he said, “and, basically, the hammering you give the front-left round here now is it’s all right-hand corners and high-speed corners.
“I think it’s gonna be fascinating strategy-wise to see who picks what strategy, who picks what tyres for the start of the Grand Prix, and I think that’s what will come into play tomorrow is it’s all going to be about tyre degradiation unless, of course, it’s raining.”