Daniel Ricciardo delivers verdict on Sergio Perez Australian GP qualifying disaster

Oliver Harden
Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo. Red Bull launch New York February 2023.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez stands with team reserve Daniel Ricciardo at the launch of the RB19. New York City February 2023.

Making his first appearance as Red Bull’s reserve driver at the Australian Grand Prix, Daniel Ricciardo has given his assessment of Sergio Perez’s qualifying shocker.

Sitting just a point behind team-mate Max Verstappen at the top of the Drivers’ standings, Perez came into the Melbourne weekend talking up his title chances after claiming his fifth career victory in Saudi Arabia but has experienced a bruising weekend so far.

Having had multiple off-track moments during a difficult final practice session on Saturday morning, Perez locked up and went off at Turn 3 for a second time in the early stages of Q1, beaching his RB19 car in the gravel before he had even put a lap on the board.

The Mexican will start the race for last on the grid with Verstappen on pole position.

Ricciardo has been regarded as a potential threat to Perez’s position having returned to Red Bull as the team’s reserve driver after losing his seat at McLaren at the end of 2022.

And making his return to the F1 paddock since the conclusion of last season, Ricciardo offered his view of Perez’s disastrous day to British broadcaster Channel 4.

He said: “It was certainly a tough day for him.

“He was certainly struggling this morning with, in short, stuff on braking, not being able to get a balance right there.

“They were having a few issues and obviously that looks like it translated into quali.

“I watched the onboard [and] it didn’t look like he sent a Hail Mary into [Turn] 3.

“It looked like a fairly normal braking point, didn’t look too ambitious, and you could kind of hear on the downshifts he was kind of reaching for the revs to try and slow the car down and wasn’t stopping.

“So I think I think they got a few things to look at.”

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Speaking in his capacity as a Channel 4 pundit, former Red Bull driver David Coulthard joked that it was as if Ricciardo had an involvement in Perez’s session-ending incident.

“He’s on the [pit] wall,” Coulthard said of Ricciardo. “It was almost like he pushed the button! It was like, ‘Checo’s car doesn’t stop’.”

Coulthard was unimpressed that Perez had made the same error twice in quick succession, claiming the 33-year-old’s was the sort of mistake made by drivers new to Formula 1.

He said: “He practiced this line a few times in free practice and [I don’t know] quite why he felt he needed to go so aggressive on his first flying lap.

“He’s been in the gravel in free practice three and he does the same thing.

“He managed to get through Turn 1 OK, arrives down at Turn 3, locks up and then when he tries to navigate the mud he’s like, ‘oh, cannot compute’ and then just gets the car beached.

“Out. Hadn’t even done a timed lap.

“I think that he’s not in a comfort zone and that’s rattled him going into qualifying.

“He’s allowed himself to go, ‘this is what I want to happen’ rather than reacting to what is physically happening with the car.

“And that to me, it’s almost like a rookie error.

“It’s not what we would expect from a Checo. He’s normally pretty solid and today was a bad day.”

With the cooler conditions causing mistakes on the tricky street track and the threat of rain in the air for the race itself Coulthard feels Sunday in Melbourne is perfectly poised.

“We’ve got one of the tightest qualifying grids that I ever remember on this racetrack, cooler conditions – the forecast looks like it could still be variable again [in the race],” he added.

“We’ve seen in all of the formulas – Formula 3, Formula 2, V8s and Formula 1 – people flying off the road left, right and centre.

“It’s like it first day at school, so I’m predicting we’ll have a Safety Car at some point.”