Although Sergio Perez said his performance dropped off in Baku when his rear tyres got cold, Christian Horner felt his driver had grained them.
Perez took the lead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc into Turn 1, but when the Virtual Safety Car was deployed following Carlos Sainz’s stoppage Ferrari pitted Charles Leclerc, while Red Bull stayed out.
That, to Perez’s mind, was a mistake.
“To me, it’s first of all the communication wasn’t tidy today with the team,” Perez told Sky Sports F1 when asked why his pace dropped off during the race.
Later told not to fight his team-mate Max Verstappen, the Dutchman took the lead from Perez, going on to claim victory while Perez finished P2, just short of 21 seconds adrift.
“We should have ‘boxed’ on the Virtual Safety Car and our race would have looked very different,” Perez stressed.
Indeed, with Red Bull passing up that opportunity, Perez’s race-leading pace never returned, the Mexican driver a little confused as to why.
He suspected that initially it had been down to his rear tyres losing temperature, before later in the race, with both Ferraris out after Leclerc had retired with an engine problem, he was told to manage his pace and make sure to bring the car home for a P2 finish, completing the Red Bull one-two.
“My pace dropped a lot after the Virtual Safety Car,” said Perez. “I don’t know what really happened. Probably the rear tyres cooled down a bit and then they have compromised the race and Max was a lot stronger there.
“Then we’ve had a few bad [pit] stops, then I was told to keep certain pace once the Ferraris retired, so it was just a matter of bringing it back home.”
Horner, the Red Bull team principal, felt rather than the rear tyres getting too cold, Perez had instead taken too much life out of them – a surprise as that is usually a skill at which Perez excels.
Nonetheless, Horner offered that Perez’s RB18 was perhaps too heavily geared up for qualifying rather than the race.
“He was magic yesterday and again a great start, [he] went away very quickly from the field but then started to get into rear tyre graining earlier than the cars behind,” Horner told Sky Sports F1.
“We can see he’s a bit harder on rear tyre deg, which is unusual for Checo because usually that’s one of his strengths.
“So maybe we just emphasised a little too much on qualifying on his side of the garage rather than the race, whereas Max’s car seemed to have much better deg in the race. And of course the drivers are contributing to that as well.”
Next up is a return to Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix, a track that shares similar characteristics to Baku.
Horner confirmed Perez and his engineers will be working through the data to avoid any further tyre troubles in Canada.
“I think he will go away and have a look at the data from this weekend,” said Horner. “I think his engineering team will look at that also for Montreal, which is a similar kind of layout to this track for next weekend.”