‘Red Bull were on tenterhooks over F1 car reliability even in Bahrain’

Oliver Harden
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen is filmed climbing into his RB19. Bahrain March 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen is filmed climbing into his RB19. Bahrain March 2023

A respected Formula 1 reporter has revealed that the Red Bull pit wall were on “tenterhooks” over the RB19’s reliability even during the team’s dominant one-two finish at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. 

Red Bull’s reliability came under the spotlight at the recent Saudi Arabian GP as a driveshaft problem during qualifying forced World Champion Max Verstappen out of Q2.

Although he recovered on race day to finish runner-up to team-mate Sergio Perez, completing Red Bull’s second one-two in as many races in 2023, Verstappen was heard airing another reliability concern over team radio in the closing stages in Jeddah.

Verstappen’s problems in qualifying came after Perez revealed he suffered an unspecified mechanical issue in Friday practice in Saudi Arabia, with chief technical officer Adrian Newey also claiming that Red Bull’s dominant showing in Bahrain was not as easy as it looked after an unexpected reliability problem in practice.

“It might have looked smooth on the outside but it was the duck underneath the water on Friday and Saturday,” Newey told the F1 Nation podcast after the race in Sakhir.

Speaking via The Race podcast, Mark Hughes has claimed that Red Bull’s issues in Bahrain were more serious than they first appeared.

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And with Fernando Alonso finishing third behind the Red Bulls in Bahrain and Jeddah, he believes it is realistic to think that the two-time World Champion could be the one to capitalise if Verstappen and Perez both hit trouble.

He said: “As Fernando pointed out, he’s optimistic that there’ll be a day when a Red Bull doesn’t finish and you hear more and more about what happened with the car in Bahrain, and how on tenterhooks the Red Bull pit wall was there about the concerns about the cars finishing there.

“We had the same thing with both cars [in Jeddah]. It’s quite conceivable.

“If it happens, you would imagine that there’s a good chance the Aston is going to be first in line to take advantage.”

Red Bull are no stranger to early-season reliability gremlins, with Verstappen retiring from two of the opening three rounds of last season and falling 46 points behind runaway leader Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen recovered quickly to take the lead of the Drivers’ standings three rounds later in Spain, where Leclerc’s Ferrari retired from P1 with an engine failure, and never looked back.

He eventually eased to his second successive title with a margin of 146 points back to runner-up Leclerc.