Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko believes Sergio Perez’s “insecure and impetuous” response to an engine problem in final practice resulted in his early elimination from Australian Grand Prix qualifying.
Having talked up his title chances following an impressive pole-to-flag victory at the previous race in Saudi Arabia, Perez had a day to forget on Saturday in Melbourne.
After a number of off-track adventures throughout third practice, Perez locked up and beached his car in the Turn 3 gravel in what was almost a carbon copy of one of his FP3 incidents.
With his mistake occurring before he had set a competitive lap time, the Mexican will start today’s race from last on the grid with team-mate Max Verstappen on pole position.
Verstappen’s lap in Q3 continued Red Bull’s run of poles at every race of the 2023 season so far, but the reigning World Champion was made to work for it after a surprisingly strong showing by the Mercedes cars of George Russell and Lewis Hamilton.
With Red Bull looking slightly vulnerable at one stage, Marko feels that only a fine lap by Verstappen preserved the team’s 100 per cent qualifying record and revealed that Perez’s car had no outstanding issues come the start of the session.
He told Sky Germany: “The result was only possible with an optimal lap from Max and also that our engineers gradually improved the car during qualifying.
“We didn’t expect it to be so tight and the Mercedes to be so strong.
“Sergio, on the other hand, already had problems with the engine settings in FP3. That unsettled him and unfortunately he slipped out.
“On this track it is very difficult to overtake in the race. If we still get him into the points, then we have to be happy if he succeeds.
“Theoretically, Sergio’s problems were actually gone from practice.
“Maybe he didn’t have the optimal setup, 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.”
Red Bull’s reliability record came under the microscope in Saudi Arabia after Verstappen suffered a driveshaft issue in qualifying, with it being claimed that the team were also nervous about both cars finishing the season opener in Bahrain.
But despite Perez’s trouble with his engine settings in FP3, Marko is relaxed about the team’s ability to address these concerns.
“We didn’t have any reliability problems this weekend,” he added.
“This is just fine-tuning.
This goes with us via Japan [with engine supplier Honda] and there it is a bit more difficult with communication.
If you build a car at the limit, and of course that’s the case with us, then there is a weak point somewhere every now and then.
“So far, however, we have always been able to fix them in time so that they have not affected the races.”