Sergio Perez, Lando Norris, Circuit de Catalunya, 2024

What radio calls reveal about Verstappen’s controlled pace and Perez’s struggles

Formula 1

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Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez drove the same car in the Spanish Grand Prix but finished over a minute apart.

Their radio chatter during the race reveals Perez struggling to make the car do what he needs it to, while Verstappen’s progress at the front of the field was almost serene.

While Verstappen wasn’t always happy with his car, he prompted his race engineer for assistance and received it. In Perez’s car, his race engineer Hugh Bird regularly prompted him to advise the team on where he was struggling.

From Perez’s messages we can also see how far within himself Verstappen drove at the beginning of the race. He only started to dig deep at the end, when Lando Norris began to close on him.

Verstappen and Perez’s Spanish GP radio messages

Start, Circuit de Catalunya, 2024
Verstappen passed Norris but lost out to Russel at the start

Verstappen ran second at the start of the race behind leader George Russell. Eager to get into the lead and enjoy the benefit of fresh air, Verstappen pushed hard to pass the Mercedes as the first lap began.

Doing so at this stage of the race was potentially risky as it placed a high strain on his tyres when his fuel load was at its greatest. Nonetheless his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase urged him to make the move as they neared the end of the second lap, and Verstappen needed no further encouragement or advice to get the job done.

In past races Lambiase has told him to go “straight into” tyre management once in the lead after the start, but on this occasion it appears that was taken for granted, and Verstappen’s lap times immediately slowed after he hit the front:

Lap: 2/66 VER: 1’19.871
Lambiase Might be our best opportunity now, Max. Think wisely.
Lap: 3/66 VER: 1’19.364
Lambiase 0.6.
Lambiase Verstappen passes Russell
Great stuff. Display eight when you can.
Lap: 4/66 VER: 1’20.766
Lambiase 1.1. Does not have DRS.
Lap: 6/66 VER: 1’20.876
Lambiase So time loss only straight line and turn 13 and 14. Obviously George pushing to keep Lando behind.
Lambiase Mode seven.

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Nico Hulkenberg, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2024
Perez took 10 laps to get by Hulkenberg

Meanwhile Perez was mired in 11th place, trying to find a way past Nico Hulkenberg. At one stage he was given information about Verstappen’s use of lift-and-coast – backing off early into braking zones – and Bird gave him direct instructions on how to use the car’s maximum available power to pass the Haas:

Lap: 8/66 VER: 1’20.989, PER: 1’22.010
Lambiase 1.8. Russell on a 21.3. Bird So one second, just outside DRS.
Lambiase We’re still saving a little bit more than Russell at turn three which is fine at this stage, Max. Perez Yeah I can’t get close, I slide too much.
Lap: 9/66 VER: 1’21.042, PER: 1’21.481
Lambiase ‘Just about stabilised peaks on the rear-left tyre, Max. Starting to drop now. Bird Gap 1.1. What are your main issues?
Perez In the low-speed.
Bird Which axle?
Perez Both axles. I feel I cannot turn the car.
Bird At this stage I’d exaggerate lift-and-coast. Exaggerate the lift-and-coast.
Lap: 10/66 VER: 1’21.003, PER: 1’21.680
Lambiase Gap 2.3. Russell 21.1. Bird And gap one second, just outside DRS again. Currently doing less lift-and-coast than Max.
Lambiase Russell pushing turn three, turn 14.
Lap: 11/66 VER: 1’20.954, PER: 1’21.734
Lambiase Mode six, Max. Bird You’ve got DRS.
Lambiase Front wing update when you can, Max, on the main straight.
Verstappen Yeah. That’s perfect.
Lambiase Understood.
Lambiase 2.7. Russell pushing turn three, turn nine, 13 and 14.
Lap: 12/66 VER: 1’21.376, PER: 1’21.983
Verstappen Had a bit of movement in seven. Bird 0.6. Battery is full.
Lambiase Understood. Bird Perez passes Hulkenberg
Press and hold.
Bird Ocon at 3.3.

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Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2024
Verstappen didn’t need as much hand-holding on his radio

Verstappen was clearly much happier with his car’s balance, asking for no changes to his front wing level for his first pit stop, despite moving to the harder medium tyre compound. When Perez made the same switch he asked for four more turns on his front wing.

Lap: 11/66 VER: 1’20.954
Lambiase Mode six, Max.
Lambiase Front wing update when you can, Max, on the main straight.
Verstappen Yeah. That’s perfect.
Lambiase Understood.
Lambiase 2.7. Russell pushing turn three, turn nine, 13 and 14.
Lap: 12/66 VER: 1’21.376
Verstappen Had a bit of movement in seven.
Lambiase Understood.

While other teams use clear messages to instruct drivers when to push flat-out – such as Mercedes’ ‘Hammertime’ for Lewis Hamilton – Red Bull’s equivalent for Verstappen is more subtle. Lambiase told him to begin ‘reducing management’ of his car when he needed him to start picking up the pace as they neared the end of the first stint.

While Russell had been the nearest threat to Verstappen at first, they were more concerned about Norris’ pace. The team took care to give Verstappen a clear picture of exactly how quick the McLaren was, even taking into account the significant effect of DRS on Norris’ lap times so Verstappen could measure his response accordingly, and not take too much life out of his tyres:

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Lap: 13/66 VER: 1’20.807
Lambiase Start to reduce the level of management gradually now, Max. Gap 2.7.
Lap: 14/66 VER: 1’20.989
Lambiase Gap 3.3.
Lap: 15/66 VER: 1’21.097
Lambiase 3.8.
Verstappen Wind is picking up.
Lambiase Copy.
Lambiase Okay so Russell in pit lane, Max. Russell, Sainz in pit lane.
Lap: 16/66 VER: 1’21.223
Lambiase A slow stop for Russell.
Lap: 17/66 VER: 1’24.876
Lambiase Okay reduce all levels of management Max. Reduce all levels of management.
Lambiase Lando 20.4.
Verstappen Lewis is in.
Lambiase It was a 21.0, DRS-corrected.
Lambiase Box and pit confirm please Max.

Perez’s steady progress through the field continued. Unlike Verstappen, who regularly had clear air, Perez spent longer periods in traffic, exposed to turbulent air, deteriorating his car’s handling. He struggled especially with the slow corners and his race engineer gave regular prompts about which settings changes might help:

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Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2024
Perez took eighth place by passing Pierre Gasly on the final lap
Lap: 17/66 PER: 1’20.420
Perez I’m struggling for rotation, turn four.
Bird Red button available for turn four. Red button turn four.
Lap: 20/66 PER: 1’20.661
Perez I’m struggling quite a bit with front rotation.
Bird Yeah I see you on the tools.
Bird Bring back the entry. Back the entry. Flap update for next stint.
Lap: 21/66 PER: 1’21.033
Perez Four clicks. Four clicks up please.
Lap: 22/66 PER: 1’21.205
Bird When you can it’ll be display yellow six position four. Display yellow six position four minus two.
Perez Repeat.
Bird Display yellow six position four minus two. Display yellow six position four minus two.
Lap: 23/66 PER: 1’21.082
Bird And display yellow eight. Display yellow eight. Still say bring back the entry turn four.
Lap: 24/66 PER: 1’20.609
Bird Torque seven is available, torque seven.
Lap: 25/66 PER: 1’20.593
Bird So push toggle available for turn 12. Push toggle for turn 12.
Lap: 31/66 PER: 1’25.420
Bird Still recommend push toggle turn 12.
Bird Okay use the tyre, use the tyre. Flap adjust confirm up four clicks.
Perez Yes.

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The moment of truth for Verstappen came in the final stint when he switched to a new set of soft tyres he’d saved after qualifying. By now Norris had a clear run at him and Lambiase could see the McLaren driver was pushing flat out.

At this point the communication between the two wasn’t quite as smooth as it had been earlier. Verstappen struggled to hear one settings change and at one point seemed unclear exactly how hard Red Bull needed him to push. But once Lambiase got home the message that Norris was pressing hard, Verstappen reacted, and found he had plenty to respond with:

Lap: 45/66 VER: 1’37.053
Verstappen How long was my first stint?
Lambiase 17, on a scrubbed tyre.
Lap: 47/66 VER: 1’17.998
Lambiase Lando last lap was a 19.4.
Lambiase Lando is in this lap.
Lap: 48/66 VER: 1’18.416
Verstappen Just keep me up to date if he’s pushing more than me.
Lambiase Yep, understood. So Lando is the car behind now.
Lambiase There’s a three-lap delta but Lando on scrub.
Lap: 50/66 VER: 1’18.074
Lambiase So Lando pushing hard, not saving tyres, Max. All corners.
Lap: 51/66 VER: 1’17.958
Verstappen Can I have a little bit less high-speed diff?
Lambiase Yep stand by. That would be display five position three when you can.
Lap: 52/66 VER: 1’17.931
Verstappen What do you want me to do, mate?
Lambiase We need to push to the end now Max. As I say Lando not tyre-saving. Lando’s place is a 17.7.
Lambiase Main deficit last lap, Max, was just turn 13 and 14.

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Lap: 53/66 VER: 1’18.140
Lambiase And strat 10, when you can. Strat 10.
Verstappen Strat what?
Lambiase Ten.
Verstappen Ten or two? I don’t understand.
Lambiase One zero, One zero.
Lap: 54/66 VER: 1’17.776
Lambiase Last lap just three was a loss.
Lap: 55/66 VER: 1’18.021
Lambiase That was a green lap for you. Lap 10 for the stint.
Lap: 56/66 VER: 1’18.354
Verstappen I need more diff support again, high speed.
Lap: 57/66 VER: 1’18.127
Lambiase That would be display five, position seven. Display five, position seven.
Lap: 60/66 VER: 1’18.165
Lambiase The only deficit was sector one. That’s turns one, two and three.
Lap: 62/66 VER: 1’18.301
Lambiase Strat nine. Strat nine. Display five position 11, position one-one.
Lambiase Gap 4.3 but Lando had DRS. Pace-corrected, 18.3.

After the race Verstappen acknowledged that the team’s strategy to “keep the gaps” over their rivals without taking too much from their tyres had been the right one:

Chequered flag
Lambiase Congratulations mate. That was hard work but you made that race for yourself, I think, down to turn one and the overtake of Russell two laps later, nice job.
Verstappen Yes. Nice! Ah yeah we were definitely not the quickest out there today but we did everything well, strategy as well. Yes!
Horner Well done, Max, that was a brilliantly executed race. You made it count at the beginning with George making that move and really well-executed race, well done.
Verstappen Yeah. Another nice win there.
Verstappen Bit of pick up on the way in please Max as well.
Lambiase Okay, obviously very close to Lando but Hamilton 18 seconds behind, Russell 22, Leclerc also 22 seconds behind.
Verstappen Yeah a good race that. I think we did everything right with the strategy, keep the gaps.
Horner Really good. You were quick when you needed to be and managed the tyres brilliantly. So a well-recovered weekend, well done.
Lambiase And you are into the pit lane, Max.

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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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4 comments on “What radio calls reveal about Verstappen’s controlled pace and Perez’s struggles”

  1. Konstantinos
    25th June 2024, 17:30

    Ah, should have gone with display yellow six position four minus one rather than display yellow six position four minus two, classic mistake.

    1. I concur, spotted it myself live.

      1. I was surprised they wemt for yellow strats instead or orange, because clearly that helped max

        1. Right? What are these people thinking. Display orange position seven minus two has been the winning ticket since day one.

Comments are closed.