Max Verstappen acknowledged that he had slowed down in the last laps of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix held on Sunday night at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, and he is unhappy about it.
Max Verstappen found it difficult to conceal his displeasure at not being able to claim his second Formula 1 victory of the year after experiencing mechanical issues in Saudi Arabia.
The reigning world champion was locked in 15th place on the grid due to a driveshaft issue that developed at the start of the second round of qualifying, while teammate Sergio Perez started the race from pole position.
Verstappen had thought that the RB19’s faster speed would allow him to make his way back to the front more swiftly, but it turned out to be more difficult than he had anticipated when he became stuck in a DRS train of slow traffic.
The Red Bull driver’s timing of the Safety Car helped him place P4 at the restart. He then advanced to P2 and focused on overtaking Perez, but the team decided to put an end to their duel due to car issues.
“We got a little lucky with the timing on the safety car which enabled Max to jump both the Ferraris and that worked out well for him,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports F1.
Although he first attempted to close the deficit, Perez had already gained five seconds, and he ultimately concluded it wasn’t worth the risk to the team’s aspirations of winning 1-2 for the second time in a row in 2023.
Verstappen struggled to hide his annoyance when speaking to the media following the race, despite the team having earned 87 of a possible 88 points so far this season.
“Of course, in general, the whole feeling in the team, everyone is happy, but personally I’m not happy,” Verstappen admitted. “Because I’m not here to be second.
“Especially when you are working very hard, also back at the factory, to make sure that you arrive here in a good state and basically making sure that everything is spot on.”
“And then you have to do a recovery race, which I like,” Verstappen added. “I mean, I don’t mind doing it, but it’s when you’re fighting for a championship and, especially when it looks like it’s just between two cars, we have to make sure that also the two cars are reliable.”
That made reference to the team’s reliability issues during the weekend. On Saturday, Perez experienced some issues in addition to Verstappen’s driveshaft problem. The race had difficulties, according to both drivers.
The idea of Red Bull drivers going head-to-head in the final lap, according to Horner, was not appealing.
“Max is a racer, he’s going to push… Coming from 15th on the grid to second at a street circuit, that’s pretty unusual,” he said.
“Those guys were going absolutely flat out until we thought we had an issue with Max… Then we looked at all the data, checked the data, it was fine and then they were flat-out hard at it again.”
“Obviously, my heart was in my mouth at that point, because I was envisaging, within three laps, having two drivers going out it hammer and tongs, but it didn’t materialise.”
“Sergio stepped up to the challenge after that safety car,” Horner added. “Checo got the gap and was able to manage it and his pace today was fantastic.”
Verstappen made an effort of aiming for the bonus point for turning in the quickest lap of the race, which means he is still ahead of the pack of drivers, although by just one point.