Red Bull need consistent reliability as well as Sergio Perez to be on the pace if they are to challenge Mercedes for the Constructors’ World Championship this year.
Those are the two big factors ex-F1 driver Jolyon Palmer has cited following the Bahrain Grand Prix, from which Red Bull emerged with an initial 13-point deficit to Mercedes.
That was despite Max Verstappen entering the weekend as favourite and starting from pole position. The Dutchman was ahead in the early stages, but after the pit-stops found himself behind Sir Lewis Hamilton and ultimately finished a close second – having had to give back the lead following an overtake deemed illegal for exceeding track limits.
Verstappen was also affected by a differential issue, while his new team-mate Perez finished fifth having had to start from the pit lane after his engine temporarily cut out on the formation lap.
The Mexican, on his Red Bull debut, had originally qualified 11th – and Palmer thinks his weekend cannot afford to be repeated if the team are to stay in the hunt with the seven-time consecutive World Champions for the Constructors’ crown this season.
“Perez has to qualify in the top four and then he’s got a chance to meddle,” said Palmer during the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast.
“Luckily for Red Bull, Valtteri Bottas [who finished third] had a horrible pit-stop, which took him out of the fight and neutralised it.
“Number one for Red Bull, Perez must be in the race at the front if they want to beat Mercedes over a season. Number two for Red Bull, reliability.
“Perez didn’t even start 11th because his engine shut down on the formation lap, so he had to start last. This is a concern moving forward for the team.
“They had pretty good reliability through testing, it was Mercedes who were in the garage a bit more.
“But when we get to the race, one Red Bull [has a problem] on the formation lap…that could have been Max. And then we are not talking about the win, we’re talking about a huge missed opportunity because the guy on pole with the fastest car starts last. So that’s a concern.
“On top of that, there was an issue with Max’s car as well, so both cars had issues. These are pressures Red Bull have got that they haven’t had – they have been the plucky underdog since 2013.
“It was a better team performance by Mercedes than it was for Red Bull.”