Christian Horner: Red Bull “checking the data” to identify Perez qualifying issue

A marshal assits in removing Red Bull Racing's Mexican driver Sergio Perez (R) car from the side of track during the qualifying round of the 2023 Formula One Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on April 1, 2023. (Photo by Paul CROCK / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE --

Team principal Christian Horner has explained that Red Bull will work to identify the problem that compromised Sergio Perez’s progress in Australia.

Despite securing Pole Position and the race victory in Jeddah, Perez has visibly struggled with his RB19 machine since arriving at Albert Park.

The Mexican driver faced problems throughout free practice, unable to complete a clean lap during his qualifying simulations in the crucial third practice session.

It was clear that Perez was uncomfortable heading into qualifying, and his costly mistake at the beginning of Q1 confirmed this.

After his crash, the 33-year-old mentioned on team radio that “the same issue” was still affecting him, although he has declined to elaborate on what this problem was.

Speaking with Sky Sports post-qualifying, Christian Horner gave his understanding of the situation:

“He’s had a horrible day today. It started this morning [in practice] – the car was late from the weighbridge. 

“There was no major issue, and the plan in FP3 was always to run differently to Max – not do a long run and just do two short runs. 

“He never really recovered from that FP3, and in this lap [in qualifying], he locked up and went off. 

“We’re just checking, obviously, all the data to see if there’s something within the engine management that has maybe contributed to that. 

“So we’re just going through that as we speak…

“We’re just looking at what contributed to that and trying to ensure that if there is something, it’s not there tomorrow.”

There seems to be a discrepancy between the analysis given by Horner and Perez, with the Red Bull team principal unsure if a specific issue was present.

Perez was certainly convinced that a solvable problem cost him in qualifying, so the next 24 hours will hopefully clarify the situation.

At least for now, reliability is the biggest issue with this year’s RB19 – with the Austrian squad facing issues throughout 2023.

Max Verstappen’s drive-shaft issue in Jeddah has been accompanied by various other scares since, including a series of worries expressed by the Dutchman on team radio earlier today.

Red Bull’s dominance has allowed them to manage their reliability in both races so far, but it remains to be seen how severely reliability will impact the RB19 in the upcoming rounds.

There was a quick and effective response to last year’s DNFs for Perez and Verstappen, so there is no reason to doubt Red Bull’s ability to fix the issue.

However, at least for now, the question is whether the team can find a clear diagnosis for their questionable reliability, which will allow a fix to be implemented.

In any case, Perez will be frustrated with his qualifying in Australia, which gives teammate Max Verstappen the opportunity to extend his gap in the standings substantially.

Verstappen proved in Jeddah that recovering from a low grid start is possible.

However, the characteristics of Melbourne’s circuit (alongside the performance of the front-runners) will surely complicate things for Perez as he works to maximize his points haul.