Valsecchi questions Red Bull’s power unit ‘knowledge’

Jamie Woodhouse
The Red Bull driven by Max Verstappen lifted away. Australia, April 2022.

Max Verstappen's Red Bull lifted away by a crane after it broke down. Australia, April 2022.

Sky Italia pundit Davide Valsecchi has questioned whether Red Bull have the required knowledge to manage their engines after Honda’s exit.

Red Bull and Honda first began working together in 2018, with the Japanese manufacturer powering their junior team Toro Rosso for that season.

That year was enough to convince Red Bull to extend that deal to also cover their main team from 2019, a partnership which went on to secure the 2021 Drivers’ Championship courtesy of Max Verstappen.

Before that title success had been secured though, Honda’s exit from Formula 1 at the end of that 2021 season had long since been confirmed.

However, it was not the complete ending of ties between the two, for Honda built a 2022 engine for Red Bull and supplied it to the team, who now have their own power unit division called Red Bull Powertrains.

It has been an unreliable start to the season though, with Verstappen suffering two very costly retirements in the opening three rounds of the 2022 campaign.

Retiring from P2 at both the Bahrain and Australian Grands Prix, that was 36 points lost, leaving Verstappen down in P6 in the Drivers’ Championship.

Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez was also forced to retire near the end of the season-opener in Bahrain while at sister team AlphaTauri, Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda have also encountered problems.

So, Valsecchi posed the question, has the transition phase with Honda left Red Bull lacking the knowledge they need for this power unit?

Max Verstappen points where he wants a marshal to spray fire retardant. Australia April 2022
Max Verstappen points where he wants a marshal to spray fire retardant on his Red Bull RB18 after retiring on the side of the track. Australia April 2022

“We struggle to understand the details of Red Bull and their problems because they are never clear in disclosing them,” said Valsecchi on Sky Italia.

“They have already replaced many engine parts at AlphaTauri, as well as to Perez in Bahrain and to Verstappen today [Australia] and in Bahrain.

“From the outside, you can see they are having a lot of problems. The farewell of Honda is a huge weight. The transition brings some difficulties, maybe Red Bull don’t have the knowledge. The team may not be blended well. Way too many problems.”

In the race Verstappen did not retire from, that being the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, he won, passing Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the closing stages to take the chequered flag by half a second.

But Leclerc was the clear class of the field in Australia, ultimately taking a grand slam victory, 20 seconds clear of Perez in P2.

“The difference between Ferrari and Red Bull in the race was greater than we had seen on Friday,” said Valsecchi.

“Mercedes were also closer to Red Bull than Red Bull were to Ferrari. This is a surprise.”


Other than a slight wobble in the form of a tricky Safety Car restart, Leclerc was otherwise never challenged for his victory at Albert Park.

So if Verstappen is to stay in the title fight, making sure he finishes P2 in a race like that is vital. He said himself after the race that Red Bull cannot expect to aim for the title if these reliability woes keep happening.

Valsecchi described the 2022 Australian GP as the best race weekend in Leclerc’s career, using Verstappen’s reaction to further confirm that.

“This is the best weekend of his career,” said Valsecchi of Leclerc.

“Because when on Friday you try the race simulation and it seems like you are at the same level as the others, and then on Sunday you destroy them, proving that on Friday you were just joking with them, that gives a huge show of force to the rivals. So it’s clearly the best weekend of his career.

“Verstappen’s statements confirm that. He said ‘if my car dumps me like that, while I’m against Leclerc, who is a wrath of God right now, I can’t do it anymore’.”

Additional reporting by Luca Brambilla


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