Formula 1 – zero points: opening debacle for Verstappen

“We got a nice slap,” were the first words from Red Bull Motorsport Director Helmut Marko to ABMS after the Bahrain GP. “But,” the doctor of law continued, “we will now disassemble the cars, conduct error analysis and then go to Saudi Arabia well prepared.”

What Marko meant: Red Bull is fighting Ferrari for a long time in Bahrain, but in the end Verstappen and Co. are empty-handed.
One thing is certain: Max Verstappen had imagined his first race as reigning world champion very differently. “First I had a problem with the steering wheel, which was getting harder and harder,” he says of his drama in the cockpit. “It was almost impossible to steer and there was always something like a delay before the car reacted. That’s why it was Re-start so bad because I wanted to step on the gas early but the steering angle didn’t open up.”

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A short time later it gets even worse: “In the end there was obviously no more fuel to the engine,” reveals the Dutchman, who rolls out three laps before the end.

Verstappen was served after his failure.

Particularly bitter for Red Bull: team-mate Sergio Perez suffered the same fate on the last lap of the race, while he was also on course for a podium finish. The team is experiencing the first double failure since the Austrian GP 2020, which also marked the start of the season in the Corona year.

Motorsport boss Helmut Marko: “The reason for failure at Verstappen and Perez seems to be the same. Both cars failed because of the injection clock, which is why Perez also spun because he suddenly had no more power in the curve.”

For Red Bull, the defect came without warning. “We have to put our heads together now, we still don’t have a conclusive explanation,” Marko announces an extensive investigation. “It’s something that’s completely new. More than uncomfortable to retire with the same defect after such a test performance with both cars.”

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In the case of Verstappen’s problem with the power steering, Marko suspects: “The jack (at the third pit stop; ed.) must have damaged something in the steering geometry.” All in all, Red Bull’s head of motorsport did not give his team a good report at the start: “It didn’t go optimally. We were surprised by Ferrari’s racing pace, especially in the second sector we didn’t have a chance. Because we were lagging behind, our tire wear was higher.”

Above all, Marko takes the Bulls’ tactics department to task: “That wasn’t our day, because it was also a misjudgment in terms of strategy: Max’s outlap was designed slowly to protect the tires. We underestimated the undercut. We thought we were clearly behind, but that wasn’t the case. If he had been driving at a normal pace, he would have been in front and could have regulated and controlled everything much more easily. That’s why Max’s anger is justified.”

Max Verstappen in a duel with Charles Leclerc.

After the second Red Bull pit stop, the world champion cursed on the radio in the best Hamilton manner: “This is the second time that I’ve tackled the outlap easily and twice I could have easily been in front. I’ll never do that again!”

In view of the series of defects that followed, the incident was the world champion’s least concern. “All in all, it was just really tough out there today. We had a lot of different difficulties, also little grip and no traction, the pace wasn’t great. There’s a lot for us to analyze now,” Verstappen demands.

What encourages the defending champion: “The performance is there. But today we couldn’t show it like that. Of course, if you drop out, it’s not all over, but we’ve lost a lot of points in one weekend.”

The good thing about it: Red Bull still has 22 races to make up for the disaster in Bahrain.

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