Max Verstappen’s finish to the 2022 season was the exact opposite to the way it began. Max won the drivers’ title with four races to spare but its not how the season began.
The dutch driver retired in two of the first three races and was beaten to pole by his team mate in Jeddah despite eventually winning the race. Max was out qualified bye Perez in Monaco who took full advantage of Ferrari’s strategic errors and went on to win the race.
Verstappen hampered by understeer
Verstappen explained the problems he encountered as follows:
“Well, now it was just related to the weight of the car. Being really overweight created an understeering balance and once we started to get rid of that, it started to be more agile again. Not just twitchy but more agile.
“You could really use the front end. At the end of the day, that’s also how you really drive a fast car.
A car cannot be fast with understeer. It’s impossible. Especially with the tyres we had this year being a bit more understeer limited as well. You cannot have a car like that.”
Perez driving style different to Verstappen
Sergio Perez driving style is different to Verstappen’s. Checo is well known for making his tyres last way beyond the point where others are finished and this is because of the natural way the Mexican corners.
By not sliding the tyres through the corner and almost understeering the car the rubber is preserved while others are burning off the surface.
Verstappen prefers a car which oversteers as he explains so the early 2022 season overweight and understeery car clearly suited Checo better.
Pirelli 2023 tyres favour Verstappen’s driving
After his win in Monaco and as the RB18 shed weight, Perez was regularly beaten hands down by his team mate whether in qualifying or the race. At the RB19 launch in New York, Verstappen explained to the assembled media that the new Pirelli tyres for 2023 will help him even more.
“I’ve never sat in a car with understeer which is fast in my life in any category. With the new tyres from Pirelli, I do think it’s a little improvement.”
“Of course, we only tested it fully in Abu Dhabi and we have to see it on every single track as well to see if it works everywhere.”
“Because every tarmac and track condition, especially the weather, it influences a lot. But I’m confident that everything will be heading into the right direction.”
Further, the RB19 should be close to the minimum weight from the get go this year and so Max won’t encounter the same difficulties which gave Sergio Perez the edge early last season.
F1 history repeating itself
Sergio Perez should be warned, he faces a similar challenge that his predecessors Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly both experienced. As the car becomes more to Verstappen’s liking, Checo just won’t be able to keep up.
Interestingly, waiting in the wings is an ex-team mate of Verstappen who didn’t struggle to match Max in a car with the same driving qualities – Daniel Ricciardo.
When discussing the difficulties he was having driving the McLaren, Ricciardo at Silverstone last year opened up revealing:
“Roughly speaking, I have a very high minimum speed in a corner when I can drive the way I want. To do this, I have to throw the car into the turn and trust it to stick to the road. Sounds simple, but it’s not.”
Ricciardo likes a similar car to Max
However, the McLaren would understeer or breakaway from the Australian causing him to lose confidence in the car and be unable to push it to its limits.
An understeering RB19 may be just what the doctor ordered for F1’s favourite Aussie son.
Then it could be around the time Formula One arrives in Monaco for round 7 of this season’s championship, Perez may be far behind Max in the championship and Red Bull under significant pressure in the constructors’ title.
What is for sure is, the team will have run the scenario and be able to compare simulator data. They will know at what point they cut their losses and replace Checo with Daniel Ricciardo.