Red Bull ‘vulnerability’ highlighted: ‘If you haven’t got Max Verstappen, what have you got?’

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen's Red Bull smoking behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz in Australia.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, behind Carlos Sainz, Ferrari.

Ex-McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley believes Max Verstappen’s DNF at the Australian Grand Prix destroyed Red Bull’s aura of invincibility as Carlos Sainz put an end to the winning streak.

Verstappen went into the Australian Grand Prix as overwhelming favourite for victory – and with very good reason – as he set about chasing a 10th consecutive Grand Prix win which would have seen him equal his own Formula 1 record. But, it did not turn out that way.

‘If Red Bull haven’t got Max Verstappen, what have you got?’

Verstappen secured pole at Albert Park and his lead off the line, but it soon became clear that there was a problem with his Red Bull RB20, Ferrari’s Sainz taking the lead on the following lap as a terminal right rear brake failure set in for Verstappen, forcing him into the pits to retire.

Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez had played his part in a pair of Red Bull 1-2 finishes to start the season, but P5 was where he finished this time in Australia, which Priestley feels has exposed a “vulnerability” to Red Bull.

“To see him disappear out of this race so early with a technical failure was really unusual,” said Priestley on the Chequered Flag podcast.

“It was an unusual weekend and what that gave was opportunity to everybody else up and down the grid. Everyone suddenly saw – even way down towards the back – people saw the opportunity of points happening, so it’s opened up.

“What made a great Sunday, a great race, not just because Max Verstappen was out of it, this was a great race anyway and it was close racing, but I think this shows that there is a vulnerability to Red Bull Racing that we all thought there kind of wasn’t. We thought they were invincible. Well, they’re not.

“What it does really highlight is the fact that if you’re Red Bull, and you haven’t got Max Verstappen, what have you got? Because Sergio wasn’t there in second place, which is where they really need him to be. So this has highlighted an even bigger problem perhaps for Red Bull Racing.”

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In contrast to Priestley’s argument, Red Bull claimed that there was a major mitigating circumstance in Perez’s case, that being that a visor tear-off got stuck in his RB20 floor and cost him downforce – and therefore performance – in a major way.

“We went long on the first stint,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told media in regards to Perez’s race.

“And his actual pace when he was coming through the field on the hard tyre as he closed in on Fernando was strong, and matching that of the leaders.

“Then, literally as he’s passed Fernando, he’s picked up a tear-off underneath the floor, and it’s got lodged in an area that’s caused significant load loss.

“So as he’s then passed Fernando, the car’s not working as it should. And so then you start to see degradation on the tyre, and again at the end of the second stint, which has been unusual for our cars.”

Verstappen will look to return to winning ways next time out at Suzuka, where he can make it a hat-track of Japanese Grand Prix wins with victory in F1 2024.

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