Max Verstappen will be happy to hop the 14 hour flight to Miami as soon as the team debrief for the Formula one Azerbaijan race concludes. The world champion was beaten in both qualifying sessions by the Ferrari of Charles LeClerc and in both races by his team mate Sergio Perez.
However, Verstappen had taken the lead of the Grand Prix from the Ferrari driver who was also passed by Sergio Perez.
Red Bull strange strategy call
Yet on lap 10 Red Bull strangely called Max Verstappen in ahead off the rest of the field for his first change of tyres. This decision was even stranger given that Alpha Tauri’s Nyck de Vries had stopped on track.
Verstappen actually passed his stricken fellow Dutchman and so the team had over half a lap to asses the situation. But the call to stay out never arrived and Verstappen came in and fitted the hard tyre.
Within seconds of the world champion returning to the track, the FIA’s race control deployed the safety car which offered the rest of the lead drivers the opportunity to change tyres and get out ahead of Verstappen.
Had Red Bull left Verstappen out, he would have made his pit stop and retained the lead of the race.
Verstappen saw stricken car
“I saw that there was a car stopped, I thought he maybe just locked up,” Verstappen told assembled media after the chequered flag.
“In hindsight, I mean I can’t see that, but it’s something to review.”
“Clearly you could see there was one wheel damaged and it looked like he was not going to drive that anyway back to the pits, even if he would have reversed. So it’s something to look at because, of course, that then did hurt my race after that.”
Verstappen should take his fair share of the blame for the poor timing of the call to pit him given he’d seen the extent of the damage to De Vries Alpha Tauri.
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Slowing lap times affected Red Bull
Red Bull will argue Verstappen’s lap times had begun to slow prior to their call to change his tyres, yet he was still leading the race ahead of his team mate Perez.
“I was not entirely happy with the balance, but also in hindsight, I was probably not pushing it enough initially in some corners,” Max revealed.
“But that should never be the indication that if there is a car stopped, to just pit.”
In fact when a car is stopped on track the normative decision is to wait and see if a safety car is deployed by race control. This then reduces the speed of all the cars on track but means they lose less time when changing tyres than when the other cars a racing at full speed.
Red Bull acted in good faith
Verstappen believes the team acted in good faith and the call whilst strange was in no way intended to favour his team mate.
“So there are a few things to look at. But I always know that the team tries to do the best thing and maybe just today we got unlucky.”
Verstappen lost nine points to Checo this weekend across the Sprint and Grand Prix races and again made clear his derision of this kind of F1 event format.
“The weekend in general was a bit messy, but I think that can be expected with this format.”
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Uneventful Grand Prix
The Grand Prix was a rather uneventful affair and from Verstappen’s comments its clear the drivers spent most of their time managing the tyres.
“After the the Safety Car I tried to put the pressure on Checo to try and get into that DRS. I think one time I was pretty close to getting it, but it was just still hanging in there really close, trying to really catch up.
“I probably damaged my tyres a bit too much early on for such a long stint.”
A day of learning
Verstappen revealed he spent much of the race behind Checo playing with “the tools” to try and improve the balance of the car.
“Of course you always want to win but I think sometimes you need these kind of weekends to learn and have a better understanding of the car, what the car needs to go faster.
“And sometimes on a street circuit like this it really comes out. Like sometimes these kind of things might get a bit masked on a normal track because of downforce and just the general behaviour of the car.
“So maybe this was a good day to go forward,” concluded the world championship leader.
READ MORE: Red Bull defy FIA pit lane regulations
Let's call this the Russell hustle #AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/RLKJ3Y9qqF
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 30, 2023
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