It’s been quite a strong start to the season for Red Bull but despite that, there are several reports and rumours that all is not well internally. These issues range from concerns over the RB19’s reliability to a rift between drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. The only problem is that all of this could simply be drummed up drama to spice up a season that threatens to be dominated by Red Bull.
The RB19 Isn't Perfect
While there have been a few hiccups for Red Bull, two 1-2 finishes in as many races speaks for itself. However, it hasn’t come easy and there were worries about reliability come race day.
In Bahrain, chief technical officer, Adrian Newey, said that while things looked easy, the team were very nervous and working very hard to ensure nothing went wrong.
“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 Bahrain.
Saudi Arabia wasn’t a perfect weekend for the team either as Verstappen’s car suffered a driveshaft issue forcing him out of Q2. Before that, Sergio Perez experienced an unspecified mechanical issue in Friday’s practice.
Mark Hughes suggested on The Race podcast, that Red Bull’s issues, particularly in Bahrain, were far worse than appearances suggested. He believes that the car was on the edge of breaking down in Bahrain and that the pit wall was “on tenterhooks.”
We do know that things haven’t been perfect and combining Newey’s comments with Hughes’, it could be suggested that things are worse than they appear, but is it worse than what any team typically deals with during the early season? We don’t know for sure.
Sergio Perez vs. Max Verstappen
There have been communications issues at Red Bull with one driver being told one thing, and one the other. In Saudi Arabia, Verstappen was told by his engineers to “target 33.0” while Perez, leading the race by 5s, was also told to target 33.0 though was later told to drop it to 32.6.
Perez was not pleased he was asked to run slower than his teammate while Verstappen was asking about the fastest lap, which Perez held. After being told by the team not to take the fastest lap from Perez, Verstappen did it anyway by clocking in a 1:31.906 on the final lap.
This isn’t the first time that Verstappen hasn’t agreed with the team if they seem to be favouring Perez’s race over his own. During the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2022, Verstappen was ordered by the team to give P6 back to Perez on the final lap when he was unable to overtake Alpine’s Fernando Alonso in P5. The issue arose because allowing Perez ahead of Verstappen would have helped the Mexican gain an advantage over Charles Leclerc in the Drivers’ Championship, which Verstappen had already won.
Perez said of Verstappen after the race that it “shows who he really is.” Verstappen when asked to let Perez through responded, “I told you already last time, you guys don’t ask that again to me.”
Afterwards, each driver said that they each said things that they regret and that things have returned to normal, but now it seems that nothing much has changed.
Cracks or Wishful Thinking?
These are genuine issues that the team are facing, but they aren’t so severe as to hamper their performance. If the car is made of tissue paper and has the chance to break, but doesn’t, is that a problem? Long-term, yes, but as Red Bull showed last year, they don’t let problems linger and they address them in a timely fashion as we saw with their reliability in 2022. In this case, it’s wishful thinking.
The communication between the teammates may cause problems or it causes a Rosberg vs. Hamilton situation that is very interesting for viewers, but a nightmare for the team. Red Bull won’t be able to maximise their points in this situation, which other teams could take advantage of. So, yes, it is a crack, but it doesn’t spell death for the team just yet.
For more, here’s why Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc aren’t switching teams.