Sergio Perez claimed an impressive victory at the Saudi Arabia GP, but this was not without a series of reliability scares for Red Bull and the RB19.
The first concerns emerged in qualifying, as Max Verstappen was forced to withdraw from Q2 with a driveshaft issue – significantly complicating his race on Sunday.
Whilst the Dutchman was able to climb the field (a process helped by the Safety Car), he communicated a variety of concerns to the pit wall in the final stages of the race.
Sergio Perez also expressed similar worries mid-race, further elaborating on the topic of reliability and his concerns in a post-race press conference:
“Well, reliability is where it is. We saw it today with Aston Martin. It’s going to hit us at some point, but obviously, we need to keep working on that.
“We need to reduce races with issues whenever we can. We were in a lucky position in Bahrain, but otherwise, if we had to push to the end, we probably wouldn’t make the [end of the] race.
“So there are a lot of reliability concerns at the moment, but hopefully, they don’t hit us anytime soon.”
It is true that Red Bull’s Jeddah issues were not the first for the Austrian squad in 2023, with the dominance RB19’s dominance masking the team’s concerns.
As outlined by the Mexican driver above, Red Bull was able to manage their problems from the first round and avoid any significant repercussions.
Whilst running a lower engine mode does not necessarily minimise power unit-related concerns – as Ferrari’s Fred Vasseur explained following Leclerc’s Bahrain DNF – it could be a relevant factor in this scenario.
Last season serves as a fresh reminder that two races are too limited a sample size to make any conclusions about reliability throughout an F1 season.
With that said, three of the top four teams in 2023 (Red Bull with Verstappen, Ferrari with Leclerc and Aston Martin with Stroll) have experienced a failure in either qualifying or the race.
This means the upcoming rounds can create a clearer picture regarding how extensively the front-runners will be impacted by mechanical failures.
Red Bull’s commanding start to the season will only heighten the scrutiny surrounding their reliability, which could be the only chink in their armour this year.
It seems unlikely Red Bull will be challenged for this year’s Championship, but that does not eliminate the need for the team to better understand its early-season gremlins.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang