Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has indicated that there might have been another fuel problem for Max Verstappen as he was forced to retire for the second time in three races at the 2022 Australian Grand Prix.
The Dutchman was trailing leader Charles Leclerc by a considerable margin in Melbourne before he ground to a halt late on, and he later reiterated that the six failures in the back of the Red Bull and AlphaTauri cars in the first three race weekend of the season are “unacceptable.”
Horner sympathises with the reigning world champion, and is as yet unsure of exactly took his car out of the race.
“It’s totally understandable his frustration,” he told Sky Sports.
“That was a really disappointing result not to finish the race. I mean I don’t know what the issue is yet.
“I don’t know if it’s engine related, I think it might be a fuel issue but we need to get the car back, we need to be able to look at what’s exactly happened.
“Until we get the car back, we don’t have the data, we don’t have the info.
“[It’s] definitely frustrating, I think as Max said we didn’t have the pace to race Charles today, they were in a league of their own but [it’s] frustrating not to be bagging those points.”
The Red Bull mechanics were carrying out some rigorous changes to the 24-year-old’s car ahead of the start of the race, but the Briton reveals that this had no bearing on the eventual outcome.
“I don’t think it’s related to that but as I say it’s all premature until we get the car back,” he said.
“It’s difficult, it’s just making a hypothesis [but] I’d rather know the facts.”
Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez picked up second place after an entertaining battle with Mercedes’ Sir Lewis Hamilton and, having lost positions to George Russell and Fernando Alonso by virtue of a Safety Car, he superbly recovered back to the podium.
“All credit to Checo today, I mean he lost out through the Safety Car, again he got unlucky,” Horner explained.
“But he made the passes, he passed Lewis [with a] great move round the outside, he then had to pass George as well to get back up into that P2.
“We didn’t as a team have the pace to beat Charles today, their car on these tyres, on this surface, at this track today was untouchable which we didn’t see on Friday so it came alive for him today.”
Regarding developing the car to eliminate the reliability problems, the 48-year-old emphasises that it is easier to make a fast car reliable, but Red Bull’s deficit to Ferrari this weekend is something that concerns him.
“I’d rather fix a fast car than try and make a reliable, slow one fast,” he maintained.
“We need to get on top of it, we can’t accept DNFs but we need to understand what the issue is and we need to address it.”
On Friday, Verstappen revealed after a few tweaks that the car had begun to feel more comfortable with the balance, but he complained of excessive graining during his first stint while trying to keep pace with Leclerc in front.
“Max, it would be fair to say, hasn’t been happy all weekend with again the car in the window and you can the front tyres open up quite quickly in the race,” Horner added.
“That’s usually the sign that you haven’t got your balance totally tuned in, you can see Charles had the lowest [degradation] and when your car’s in a happy place, you just don’t get those problems.
“He didn’t have the blistering, he didn’t have the graining to the extent that others had and it accentuated some of the issues that Max had.
“We’ve got things in the pipeline that I think will help but obviously we move back to Europe now and we need to put this behind us, address it and move on.”
It was put to the Red Bull boss that the different track conditions on Sunday compared to Friday might have affected Red Bull, but he settles on the fact that Ferrari simply did a sublime job this weekend.
“The conditions obviously are slightly different today compared to Friday but you don’t have exactly the same… the track’s in a different condition and so on but today we expected to be a lot closer to Ferrari on pace but they were untouchable today so congratulations to them but we’ve obviously got some work to do,” he stated.
Verstappen sits sixth in the Drivers’ Standings after the amalgamation of issues that have befallen him in the early part of the year.