Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2023

‘I can’t brake at turn one’: Inside the nightmare Saturday which left Perez last

2023 Australian Grand Prix

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Sergio Perez will start Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix from last on the grid after he slithered into a gravel trap at the beginning of qualifying and became stuck.

It brought an early end to what must rank as one of his most desperate days at the wheel of a Formula 1 car. Perez was plagued by braking problems throughout final practice, and though he was convinced they had been solved ahead of qualifying, he was dismayed to discover that was not the case when he tried to slow his car at turn three on his first full lap of the session.

After his car came to a rest Perez was unable to engage reverse. “Going along that mud might be your best bet now, going along the edge there,” race engineer Hugh Bird suggested, but the RB19 was stuck and Perez’s session was over.

“Same fucking issue, man,” fumed Perez. “We’ve got the same fucking issue.”

After two disrupted practice sessions at the circuit yesterday, Perez knew he faced a long job list on Saturday. “Tomorrow there’s more or less plenty to do,” he said, “too much to do in FP3.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner indicated they took the decision to focus on Perez’s single-lap pace in the final hour before qualifying. He didn’t appear on track for the first 20 minutes.

“There was a bit of a delay in getting the car weighed and so it wasn’t the best build up prior to P3 that we would have hoped for,” Horner explained. “But he wasn’t planning to do a long run in P3, so it wasn’t a desperate rush to get going.”

Once he did, Perez soon encountered trouble with his brakes at some of the slower corners around the Albert Park circuit. He abandoned one lap after a snap of oversteer at turn one and asked Bird whether there was something wrong with his car:

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Bird Display 11 position one minus two. Display 11 position one minus two. Bottas coming through now. That’ll be a less aggressive push toggle. Your battery is good. So good to go for this next lap. Think about minus one on the bias offset as well. Minus one if you need it. No threats behind. Okay, recharge off.
Perez I just don’t feel the… it’s all okay with the car?
Perez I cannot brake into turn one. Very loose rear. And then a lot of front lock going into turn three. Very inconsistent balance corner to corner
Bird Okay. Nothing jumping out at the moment in the data. We’ll keep on looking. Do you want to have another look, go for another push lap?
Perez Yeah. Is the window okay?
Bird Yeah we’ve got Hamilton at nine seconds, looks to be high fuel. Just want to make sure you’ve got a nice gap to Bottas here, Bottas at low fuel.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2023
Perez struggled repeatedly at turn one

On his next attempt Perez successfully made it through turn one, but locked his front-right wheel at turn three and skidded wide, missing out on another attempt to set a time.

Having initially decided to pit, Perez decided to do another lap, moving his brake balance further rearwards in an attempt to gain more confidence in the stopping zones. This time he managed to complete a lap, but he was still dissatisfied with the car.

Bird asked if the problem was related to his tyres, and while Perez felt his rears might be graining in the low temperatures, he didn’t seem convinced this was the cause:

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Perez I cannot brake already into turn one.
Bird Yeah.
Perez Compared to the first lap.
Bird Shall we box and get the fresh set on, make sure everything’s okay with the car? Got no threats behind, you’re in phase with everyone.
Perez Yeah. Let’s do that
Bird So in phase with everyone behind.
Perez Let’s try one more lap before we box.
Bird Okay. So recharge off, track is clear. So try another 1% offset, one more click rearwards.
Bird Okay, so recharge on. Keep up the pace and box at the end of this lap. Cancel hand brake, b-bal six. Where we at Checo. Do we need any set-up changes?
Perez It’s very inconsistent the car, still. Turn one, I cannot brake. When I did on my first lap the rear just feels like it’s missing quite a bit of rear grip. And then I go in full lock. I’m still finding this inconsistency.
Bird Do you think it’s tyre-related?
Perez I don’t know if I picked up some graining on the rear axle. On the rear-left, I can see that there is a bit of graining. I don’t know if it’s coming from there.
Bird Okay, so box, Checo.

Perez returned to the track for his final run, but went off at turn three again:

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Bird Okay, so hand brake to open the lap. Little bit more of a gap to De Vries, recharge off.
Perez Agh, I cannot believe this session.
Bird Okay, so recharge on. In phase with Stroll behind. Okay, so we’re three tenths off Max in sector one. Four tenths off Fernando. Seven hundredths off in sector two. And you know about sector three.
Bird So remember, we’ve got the red button available for 13, red button for 13.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2023
Having failed to set a time in qualifying, Perez will start last on the grid

By now rain was beginning to fall, further complicating the team’s attempts to get to the bottom of the problem. Perez went off at turn one, and he was now out of time to complete any more laps before qualifying:

Bird Track is clear just recharge off when you’re ready.
Bird Gasly pushing at one.
Bird Recharge on. Cancel red button, b-bal six. And we’ve got time for another push lap.
Perez It’s raining a little bit harder.
Bird Okay. Update in terms of sector times, we’re three tenths off in sector one, there or thereabouts sector two, two tenths in sector three. Currently P6. Main losses are getting on throttle turn one through two. Going through turn four and then turn 11. Will you learn from another push lap here?
Perez Yeah. Yeah.
Bird So the rain is picking up a little bit. Go to b-bal three, b-bal three.
Perez If the rain is picking up a bit then I don’t see the point. Where is it picking up? On the back straight it’s okay, final sector.
Bird Yeah, we’re just seeing a bit more rain in the pit lane here. It’s not that heavy. Let’s open the lap, see how we go, but no need to take any risks at this point. Track is clear, just recharge off when you’re ready.
Bird Okay.
Perez Yeah.

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Perez went into qualifying hoping the team had rectified the problem, but his swift exit showed that was not the case. He will have only a few reconnaissance laps before tomorrow’s race to learn whether the team have finally found a solution.

“We have a bit of an understanding and we are confident together as a team we will be able to sort it out because it’s very important that we do,” he said after qualifying.

“This morning we had the issue and we thought we’d fixed it, but this morning I was just going all around. I was riding more on the grass than on track, but we thought we’d fixed it, so I was pretty confident on that. But that wasn’t the case as soon as I touched the brake into turn three.”

“I really hope we are able to fix the technical issue for tomorrow because otherwise it’ll be really hard to race like this,” he added.

For the second qualifying session in a row Red Bull had one car on pole positions – Max Verstappen’s this time – and another held back by a technical problem.

Team principal Christian Horner said it had been “super-frustrating for Checo not even to really take part in quali because we’d expect him to be right there as well.”

“We need to get to the bottom of what was the exact cause, we think there might be something that’s contributed, but obviously frustrating on a sort of effectively a first build-up lap,” he added.

After qualifying, the stewards confirmed that despite failing to set a time, Perez would be allowed to start the race from last on the grid as he had lapped quickly enough in practice. That was the first bit of good news he had all day.

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It was a short qualifying session for Perez

2023 Australian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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26 comments on “‘I can’t brake at turn one’: Inside the nightmare Saturday which left Perez last”

  1. This sounds like one of those vague technical issues that sometimes occur when there’s actually a driver failure they’d like to not talk about. No wonder Ricciardo was all smiles and talking about coming back to F1

    1. Perez went off track too many times for it to be a driver’s error. I’d agree if this happened once, maybe twice, but not four times in FP3 (if I am not mistaken) plus in qualification.
      It’s also funny to see comments from Horner that their drivers are treated equally. I didn’t see any issues with Verstappen’s car in the first three races.

      1. lol, maybe you have to actually watch the races/qualy’s then

      2. Raymond Pang
        1st April 2023, 16:57

        The term “short memory” is bandied about a lot this week, but very much apt this time round. Don’t you remember qualifying in the last race just two weeks ago?

    2. Or its Redbull management. There can only be one.

      They don’t want to waste the season with two drivers so close that they are squabbling on and off the track for position. So this is them establishing early on who leads and who wins the championship. They are also ‘balancing’ the odds for the last time when Verstappen had to come from behind because his car let him down on a technical issue.

    3. Sergio is a late breaker and he breaks hard (Max break early and constant as comp.) on cold tyres that can make the difference to miss his turn.

  2. Perez is being short changed by Red Bull. The Dutchman rules this garage.

    1. Itsmeagain (@)
      1st April 2023, 13:57

      There is absolutely no reason for RB to lean their head to father and son Verstappen, besides Max is the faster driver. Checo is bringing more sponsormoney and the chance Checo would attract more mexican sponsors to RB in case he would be more successful than Max. Besides it would be very logical to give Checo the preferred treatment instead of Max if you look at the commercial interests.

      1. @itsme do you have any evidence for the assertion that “Checo brings more sponsor money”?

    2. Funny decision from verstappen to have a driveshaft failure in Jeddah…

    3. Perez clearly is the number two. So what’s the point?

  3. @Palaboran
    Yes, it’s so obvious, they just want Perez to crash. They just hate that guy

    1. Andrea Sassetti style?

  4. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    1st April 2023, 14:00

    It was always going to happen the minute he gets close to Max. Like how his car mystically became half a second a lap slower than Max’s after Monaco last year. He will have an horrific 5 races now and then his car will magically be fast again when he’s already out of contention.

    1. @rdotquestionmark
      “mystically”.. Yes, except that it wasn’t. The car was an overweight understeering pig. They fixed that. There will be people who say they fixed the car and made it quicker just to hamper Perez. That makes as much sense as flat earthers to me

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      2nd April 2023, 17:51

      @rdotquestionmark – How did Russell get on today?

      1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
        2nd April 2023, 21:30

        @petebaldwin Bit cynical for my tastes 😉. Besides it doesn’t count when the number one driver has the DNF.

  5. petebaldwin (@)
    1st April 2023, 14:24

    Looks like the Netflix generation are out in force above! Wow……

    As I’ve got a group of you here – do you guys like sprint races? We’re always told you lot love them but I’m not convinced. It’d be interesting to know.

    1. Looks like the Netflix generation are out in force above! Wow……

      Aw, you done gone and shut them up now. I was looking forward to the speculation about Jos slipping Alonso style bribes to the engineers working on Perez’s car to get them to “fix” it.
      Perez had a bad day. End of.

    2. @petebaldwin lol Netflix generation, I wonder the ratio of pre/post Drive to Survive users here on F1 Fanatic *cough* sorry

  6. Lower temperatures, relatively more difficult for the Red Bull to get heat into the tyres and up to optimal temperatures, Perez is a much heavier and later braker than Verstappen with less ability to feel adherence, Perez spins off.
    Nothing to do with differences in the cars, all to do with differences in the drivers.

    1. Perez is a much heavier and later braker than Verstappen with less ability to feel adherence,

      How do you square that view with the regularly quoted ability of Perez to extend the life of a set of tyres?

      1. He’s ultra-smooth on the throttle out of corners, preserving rear tyre wear.

    2. So last race both cars were equal, nothing wrong with VER drive shaft, nothing technically wrong with VER car, Checo was simply faster and better than VER, thanks for confirming that.
      “Nothing to do with differences in the cars, all to do with differences in the drivers.”. aha!

      1. The sarcasm might work if it made any sense.

  7. Bird to Perez:
    “don’t worry Checo, all fixed, I repeat all fixed”

    “Ah it’s the same problem, I’m out”

    “April Fools! We didn’t fix it! Haha jokes”

Comments are closed.