Horner suggests 'fine margins' behind Perez tyre issues

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB18. 22.11.2022. Formula 1 Testing, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Tuesday
© XPB 

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner believes that 'fine margins' are behind Sergio Perez' struggles during the 2022 season, while team mate Max Verstappen romped to a record 15 victories.

Although Perez won two races this season on Monaco and Singapore, he narrowly failed to clinch the runners-up spot n the drivers championship from Ferrari rival Charles Leclerc.

Leclerc took the vice-championship by making a single-stop strategy work in the season finale at Abu Dhabi, while Perez was forced onto a two-stop approach to the race, only to run out of time to catch the Monegasque in the final laps.

One reason that was so surprising is that Perez has been the acknowledged 'tyre whisperer' in previous seasons, able to make his tyres last longer than anyone else in race trim. That wasn't the case this season.

“I struggled a bit with these tyres this year, in terms of managing the tyres in the race,” Perez admitted at Yas Marina after the end of the final race of the season.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing with Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal on the grid. 23.10.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Race

"Hopefully that can be something that we will improve for next year, and generally just be a bit stronger," he told the media.

Horner told Autosport magazine that Perez' struggles this season were almost certainly down to the very fine margins needed to extract the best from this year's new 18-inch Pirelli compounds.

"A click of front wing out, or a bit of ride height, or a small amount of mechanical balance, and it can have a dramatic effect on your tyre life," he explained.

"Checo’s driven so many races where he’s been fantastic on the tyres," Horner pointed out when asked why Abu Dhabi hadn't gone to plan for the Mexican driver.

"It was just the first stint that compromised him, where the front right started to grain quite heavily compared to Charles and Max," he said.

“That then put him out of sync where we had to pit and that was on a very compromised one stop," he suggested. "The two-stop was the more attacking race.”

Dr Helmut Marko (AUT) Red Bull Motorsport Consultant with Christian Horner (GBR) Red Bull Racing Team Principal and Sergio Perez (MEX), 12.12.2021. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Race

Horner's thoughts were echoed by Red Bull motorsport consultant Dr Helmut Marko. “Perez pushed too hard at the beginning of the first stint,” he told Motorsport.com. “As a result, we had to bring him in earlier than planned.

"Of all the guys at the front, he was the first whose tyres went," Marko pointed out. “We were not forced into that early stop by Ferrari - we were forced into that early stop by Perez’s own tyre wear."

He suggested that Perez had been ousted from the title of tyre whisperer by his team mate.

“Max has gradually become a tyre whisperer,” he said. “We give him a certain plan and he executes it optimally.

“In Abu Dhabi, for example, with Max we had already assumed a one-stop. From the same considerations we had gone for a two-stop with Perez, although that first stop of his still came earlier than we expected."

Perez' problems went beyond the season finale. He started on pole just once all year (in Saudi Arabia) compared to Verstappen's seven, and he was frequently over half a second behind his team mate in practice sessions.

But the pairing is still proving the most successful driver pairing the team as had since their heyday with Sebastian Vettel.

“With all the results this year, we are actually over the moon,” Marko acknowledged. “The team and both drivers have done a fantastic job. The only downside to that is that it won’t be easy to top this season again.”

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