Max Verstappen Red Bull ‘sabotage’ theory addressed after shock DNF

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen retired from the 2024 Australian Grand Prix, due to a rear brake issue.

While former F1 driver Giedo van der Garde insisted that “sabotage” is out of the question at Red Bull, he pondered whether the off-track saga at Red Bull influenced the rare mechanical failure that cost Max Verstappen in Melbourne.

Red Bull started the F1 2024 season in typically dominant fashion with one-two finishes in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but could not fully revel in that glory as a flurry of questions around clashes behind the scenes continued to come the way of team boss Christian Horner, senior advisor Helmut Marko and star driver Verstappen.

Did off-track saga aftermath trigger Red Bull lapse?

The situation cooled somewhat heading into Round 3, the Australian Grand Prix, where Verstappen arrived searching for a record-equalling 10th grands prix victory in a row, but those ambitions soon faded.

Verstappen got away well from pole position but on the following lap found himself passed for the lead by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz as his RB20 struggled before a fiery failure on the right rear brake forced Verstappen into an early retirement.

Mistakes of any kind are a rarity for Red Bull, this marking Verstappen’s first DNF since his 2022 visit to Australia, as van der Garde proposed that perhaps the internal upset at Red Bull had led to a grave error.

“It was either a mechanical problem with the brake, or someone forgot to do something,” said van der Garde while speaking on the DRS De Race Show podcast.

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“It’s certainly strange that this happened right now at Red Bull. I’m not saying it’s sabotage – certainly not.

“But when there are internal messes in a team like that, people can make mistakes. We haven’t seen it in two years. It was such a well-oiled machine. Everything ran so perfectly.

“So does this have something to do with what’s going on at the top?”

Red Bull were unable to keep their 100 per cent winning record in-tact after Verstappen’s DNF with his team-mate Sergio Perez managing only P5, due to a visor tear-off getting stuck in the floor and triggering a loss of downforce. Ferrari instead scored a one-two of their own, Carlos Sainz taking the win with Charles Leclerc P2.

Verstappen nonetheless still leads the Drivers’ Championship with a margin of four points over Leclerc, while Red Bull hold the same buffer over Ferrari at the top of the Constructors’ standings.

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