Despite the big negative of a double retirement in Bahrain, Christian Horner says Red Bull must see the positive in their “great” RB18.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was in the hunt for victory in the opening race of the season but as the Bahrain Grand Prix entered its latter stages, a very stressed Verstappen took to the radio to tell his team his car was in trouble.
Those issues preceded his retirement two laps from the end having been running P2 behind eventual winner Charles Leclerc, while on the following lap Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez, then in P3, said he was “losing power”.
The Mexican desperately tried to hold off the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, but his rear wheels locked out of Turn 1, sending him into a spin and ending his race with his RB18, like Verstappen’s, broken and done for the day.
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) March 20, 2022
Horner said the issue was still being investigated, but early signs suggested it could be related to the fuel system.
“A brutal finish to that race for us,” Horner told Sky Sports F1. “What looked like a decent haul of points suddenly evaporated in the last couple of laps.
“It looks like a similar issue on both cars. We don’t know exactly what it is yet, whether it was the lift pump, whether it’s the collector or something along those lines.
“But we’ve got to get into it and understand exactly what’s caused it.”
It was then mentioned to Horner the FIA had released a document confirming on Saturday night Red Bull had been given permission to change the lift pump.
Asked if that was therefore related to either or both retirements, he replied: “No, I think there have been some other issues we had been made aware of. It was just an inspection we wanted to double check.
“Of course it’s all subjective at the moment until we get the cars apart and understand exactly what has caused the issue.
“And I suspect it is similar on both cars because it’s too close and too similar a failure.”
Verstappen, before that ultimately terminal issue, had also complained of a steering issue but Horner stressed the two were not connected.
“No, totally disconnect that. The steering issue was when the car got dropped after the final stop,” he confirmed.
“I think it’s tweaked a track-rod, so that’s why it was slightly different left to right.”
Verstappen was, of course, disappointed to lose P2, the same true of Perez who lost his shot at the podium. But Horner made it clear that for all the frustration in Bahrain, Red Bull need to focus on the positive that they were competitive against Ferrari, who went on to take the one-two finish.
Ultimately, Horner believes Ferrari had the faster car, but Red Bull were in the hunt, evidenced by a thrilling multi-lap battle in which Verstappen and Leclerc traded the lead several times.
So, going into next weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Horner feels Red Bull carry a positive mindset, knowing they are in the fight.
“Of course disappointed, when you are looking at a comfortable second place, and we had a pretty decent run until then,” said Horner of Verstappen’s reaction in Bahrain.
“I think Ferrari were just that little bit quicker than us today. They have demonstrated over the winter [that] they have been very quick, they confirmed that today.
“But we had a go at it. Max made the pass twice into Turn 1, couldn’t hold it off into Turn 4, but we gave it a shot and it’s frustrating to end up…again brutal for Sergio, last lap, he’d held off Lewis into Turn 1 and then unfortunately the issue and nothing he could do.
“The negative is zero points, that’s the brutal start, the positive we’ve got a great car.
“We’ve got a car that has qualified on the front row, that has fought with Charles for the win. We didn’t quite have the pace to them. We have to get a bit more performance, we have to sort that reliability and Jeddah…totally different type of venue to here.”
Red Bull were not the only team using the Red Bull Powertrains engine that suffered a retirement as AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was also forced to stop on track, making a hasty exit as flames leapt from the back of the AT03.
Horner, though, suspects Gasly’s issue was not related to Red Bull’s.
“Pierre’s issue, again, related to his MGU-K, suspected failure on that car, so nothing to do with the issues Sergio and Max had,” he said.
“But we have to get on top of it quickly.
“But as I say, I think while gutting not to get that podium and 30 points in the bag today, we’ve got a good car and that’s what we need to focus on.
“And we have to address these reliability issues and fight back next weekend.”