Horner shares Verstappen's frustration over reliability

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing and Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal. 19.03.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir
© XPB 

Max Verstappen failed to finish the Australian Grand Prix after his Red Bull suffered technical issues and was forced to retire for the second trime in three races so far in 2022.

Verstappen and his team mate Sergio Perez both missed out on points in the season opener in Bahrain, and this weekend Verstappen had second place snatched away from him when the RB18 suddenly lost power on lap 38.

Team principal Christian Horner said that the problem in Melbourne was “something totally different” to the vacuum in the fuel system that had afflicted both cars in the first race.

“We don’t know what the issue is yet," he told Sky Sports F1. “It looks like a fuel system issue external to the tank that’s caused the issue.

"We need to understand exactly what has caused that failure, so it was a very frustrating race in that respect," he added. "That was a really, really disappointing result, not to finish the race.

"But we need to get the car back. We need to be able to look at what exactly happened," he said. "It’s all premature until we get the car back.

"Until we get the car back, we don’t have the data, we don’t have the info," he stressed. "It’s difficult just making a hypothesis, I’d rather know the facts.”

Red Bull mechanics had also worked on Verstappen's car before the start of the race having made gearbox-related changes overnight, but Horner felt these were unrelated to the retirement.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen on the grid ahead of the start of the 2022 Australian Grand Prix

© Red Bull Racing

“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 gone into quarantine, the parts will obviously return to Japan, and we’ll obviously try and understand the problem as quickly as we can.”

After today's latest disappointment, Verstappen was vocal about the "unacceptable" low reliability of this year's car so far, and its impact on the championship battle even this early in the season.

"We are already miles behind so I don't even want to think about the championship fight at the moment," Verstappen had complained. "We didn't even finish the race so it's pretty frustrating and unacceptable."

Horner said he was in agreement with his driver. "[It's] desperately frustrating, as Max said," he acknowledged. “It’s totally understandable, his frustration."

The two DNFs have cost Verstappen two probable runners-up positions, allowing Ferrari's Charles Leclerc to build up an impressive lead at the top of the current driver standings at this early stage of the season.

"It’s frustrating not to be bagging those points," acknowledged Horner. "[But] we’re only what, just over ten per cent of the way into the championship so I think there’s still a huge amount to go.

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75 leads at the start of the race. 10.04.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne

“In the first two races, for Max we’ve given up 36 points. And for the team, we’ve given up 50 points. When you look at that, both the constructors and the drivers championship would be a lot different.

"It’s a long season ahead and we have the basis of a quick and competitive car, but we need to get on top of these issues quickly," he said “We can’t accept DNFs, but we need to understand what the issue is and we've got to address it.”

It's not just reliability that concerns Horner, who conceded that Red Bull had slipped behind their rivals in Melbourne. Neither Verstappen nor team mate Sergio Perez had the raw speed to do anything about Leclerc's march to victory.

"We didn’t have the pace of Ferrari today, so congratulations to Charles,” Horner said. “They were in a league of their own.

"I think we were too poor with our balance," he ventured. "We seem to be a bit harder on the tyres.

"You could see the front tyres open up quite quickly in the race, and that's usually the sign that you haven't got your balance totally tuned in.

That said, there's no doubting that the RB18 had been one of the top performers in the first races of 2022 and has considerable potential to be exploited once the team gets to the heart of the reliability concerns.

"I’d rather fix a fast car than try and make a reliable and slow one fast," Horner said.

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