Red Bull were looking to set for a big haul of points from the 2022 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. But then it all started to go wrong three laps from the end, as first Max Verstappen, then Sergio Perez, retired from the race.
Reigning champion Verstappen had fought valiantly with eventual winner Charles Leclerc throughout much of the race, but seemed to be settling for second when he started to complain of both steering and power unit issues on his Red Bull RB18.
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Passed by third-placed Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari on Lap 54 of 57 – who had nearly overtaken the ailing Verstappen on a Safety Car restart three laps earlier – Verstappen’s problems then proved terminal, as the Dutchman retired from the race.
Team mate Sergio Perez then compounded Red Bull’s woes by losing his own P3 on the final lap, the Mexican spinning into retirement at Turn 1, capping a miserable day for the reigning drivers’ championship-winning team.
“I mean, what happened at the end is obviously very frustrating, but of course before that, quite a few issues,” said Verstappen at the end of Sunday. “First of all the balance was off. I didn’t have the same feeling as on Friday on the long runs, so that was a bit disappointing.
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“Then suddenly my steering, I don’t know what happened to that, it was just completely locked and the faster I was going, I could barely steer. So it was not easy on the restart to defend from Carlos.
2022 Bahrain Grand Prix: Verstappen retires after dramatic car failure
“But then I was still in second with that big issue so you think, okay, with all these issues that I’ve had today, second would be a good result. And then suddenly I had to retire, everything just switched off. It looked like a fuel pump or issue, there was no fuel coming to the engine. Of course these things, you don’t want them to happen and it’s very painful for the team as well as both cars retired. We need to look into everything.”
Asked if he had mixed emotions given his strong pace across the weekend, Verstappen replied: “I think at the end what is the biggest problem is that we scored zero points with a competitive car. And of course on the days when you have tiny issues or you’re not entirely happy with the balance, you have to consolidate and score points and what we did today is of course extremely painful.”
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Perez, too, was understandably downbeat, after losing the chance to snatch a podium in Verstappen’s absence – with the Mexican’s retirement handing P3 to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
“I was very unfortunate,” said Perez. “I lost the engine, just locked the rears completely and there was nothing I could do. It looks a very similar problem to what Max had.
“I’m definitely disappointed but we are a strong team and it’s a long season ahead of us, we just have to remain working as hard as possible and next weekend is another opportunity.”
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Speaking after the race, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner revealed the team’s initial investigations into their technical problems, telling Sky Sports F1: “It looks like a similar issue on both cars. We don’t know exactly what it is yet, whether it’s a lift pump, whether it’s a collector, or something along those lines, but we’ve got to get into it and understand exactly what caused it.
“The steering issue [on Max’s car] was when the car got dropped on the final stop, we think it tweaked a track rod, so that’s why it was slightly different left to right.
AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix
“It was a brutal finish to that race for us,” added Horner. “What looked like a decent haul of points for us evaporated in the last couple of lapses there.”
Brutal indeed – but Red Bull at least get the chance to go again in just a week’s time, when F1 decamps to Jeddah for the second-ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
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