Pit lane starts for Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas at the Australian Grand Prix

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez in the gravel. Melbourne, Australia. March 2023.

Sergio Perez in the gravel. Melbourne, Australia. March 2023.

Sergio Perez and Valtteri Bottas will start Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix from the pit lane after their respective teams decided to make changes to their suspension set-ups after their qualifying struggles.

Perez’s RB19 has also been fitted with a third energy store and a third control electronics, both outside the penalty-free allotment of two meaning a grid penalty would’ve been coming his way.

That wouldn’t have had any impact on the driver’s starting position as he was always going to line up at the very back of the grid having crashed on his opening hot lap in qualifying.

Perez capped a wretched Saturday in Melbourne with a crash early in Q1, bringing out the red flags and Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko’s ire.

“Sergio’s problems were actually gone from practice,” the 79-year-old told Sky Deutschland.

“Maybe he didn’t have the optimal set-up, but he was insecure and impetuous.

“And on the first fast lap it was even more slippery, he was still on old tyres. All this has led to him slipping out.”

Perez will now start from the pit lane with the FIA note reading: “Further changes have been made to the set-up of the suspension (with the approval of the FIA technical delegate following a written request).

“Therefore car number 11 should now be required to start the race from the pit lane according to Article 40.9 c of the 2023 Formula One Sporting Regulations.”

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Meanwhile Bottas, who also had a miserable qualifying session as he finished down in 19th place on a weekend where Alfa Romeo came to the track with various upgrades for the car, was perplexed by his lack of pace.

“The upgrades we brought to Melbourne seem to be working as we expected, so there’s no denying we expected more from qualifying,” he said.

“This is, of course, not where we wanted to be, and there are definitely a lot of questions about this qualifying session. We seemed to lack pace.

“These are far from being ideal starting positions, but we’ll investigate what went wrong and regroup to go for it again tomorrow.”

That investigation led to Alfa Romeo deciding to change his suspension set-up ahead of Sunday’s race, he too set for a pit lane start.