Abu Dhabi Grand Prix | Max Verstappen (Red Bull) was not ready to do anything to help Sergio Pérez: “Is it fair?”

Red Bull missed the final goal of a record-breaking season. Sunday, Max Verstappen went for his 15th success in a season, a new statistical reference, even if we can always argue that the calendar in perpetual extension has a lot to do with it. The Dutchman took advantage of the 22 events on the 2022 agenda to erase Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel from the shelves, authors of 13 victories, respectively in 2004 (18 races) with Ferrari and 2013 with Red Bull (19 races). The double world champion therefore did not beat the ratios of the two Germans.

“It was a great racequietly commented Max Verstappen, on arrival, at the microphone of the 2009 world champion, Jenson Button. It all depended on tire management, and I think we managed them well. I managed the “medium” well, it was necessary to preserve the “hard” from beginning to end. It’s great to win again here. This 15th victory is great. It was very pleasant to work with the whole team, to achieve this result. We know it will be difficult to reproduce it. We will try to restore the necessary motivation to attack 2023.”

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Leclerc: “We had the perfect race, with a lot of pressure”


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Leclerc bluffs Pérez

Max Verstappen walked for 58 laps, his teammate Sergio Pérez did not. The Mexican started second, with the aim of dislodging Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) from second place in the world championship. He had never finished vice-world champion, and no second driver from Milton Keynes has moreover ensured the double in the history of the team which arrived in Formula 1 in 2005, and it will not be for this time. Because he had a bit of everything against him: excessive confidence, traffic and ultimately not even the support of his leader!

First, Sergio Pérez got a little lost in strategy, through the fault of his camp, convinced of once again having the upper hand over the Reds in terms of rubber management. From practice, he had taken his precautions by keeping two “hard” Pirelli sets in his pack for the race, scheduled for two stops. The “soft” excluded from the equation because subject to degradation at high speed, the plan was simple: start in “medium” and loop the next two relays in “hard”.

At Ferrari, Charles Leclerc had made the same calculation, like his teammate and the Alpine drivers. The surprise was therefore great at Red Bull when Xavier Marcos announced to the Monegasque, on the 33rd lap, that he had to follow the opposite strategy of his rival. Clearly, the driver of the F1 75 n°16 was able to make only one stop. Which was impossible for Sergio Pérez, perhaps too sure of himself, and in any case not careful enough.

Costly battles against Vettel and Hamilton

He had already pitted early for his first pit stop (on lap 16, six laps before Leclerc), and his second pit stop on lap 33, made compulsory given the state of his tires (“hard”), precipitated his fall . Embarking on a complicated recovery, badly positioned in traffic, he certainly missed one or two laps to attack the Ferrari n°16.

“It’s like thathe sighed warmly. Sometimes it’s tight. In the end, I must be happy. We have given everything. I’m sure to come back even stronger next year. I suffered a little with these tires this season, a little more difficult to manage them in the race. This is something that needs to be improved next year. It will make us stronger.”

In fact, “Checo” found himself off-time several times in this race, and paid for it in the end. After his first pit stop, he got back on track behind Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) and took a lap to pass him, and then it was not as easy as he thought in the traffic. On lap 44, 14 laps from the end, he lost a lot of energy – and two laps – behind Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) for third place.

Advice for Pérez… and Leclerc

“I think Checo pushed a bit too much (in his first stint) and that’s why we called him to the pits earlier than expected”, analyzed Helmut Marko, on Sky Sports. But, according to the Austrian adviser to Red Bull Racing, it was the battle with the #44 W13 that consumed his last chance. “It was on Hamilton’s overtaking maneuver that Pérez lost time. Otherwise it would have been enough”, judged the former Formula 1 driver and winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And to admit to having been trapped by the Reds, adding: “We were surprised that Ferrari only stopped once with Leclerc. It was not in our plans.”

And then, ultimate disappointment for Sergio Pérez, Max Verstappen was of no help to him in this race. And not just reluctantly. By driving in front, the Batavian wanted to help his teammate, failing to act concretely on the track. “My tires are good. Tell Checo he can push hard!”, Launched “Super Max” on the airwaves. Hearing it, Ferrari was also quick to relay the message to Charles Leclerc, suddenly less worried about the holding of his “hard”, shod on the 21st lap.

Verstappen wasn’t ready to hold off Leclerc

And then, Max Verstappen broke out of an exit of which he has the secret, proving that the dispute of the Grand Prix of Sao Paulo, had not really been settled. Because he would not have blocked Charles Leclerc if the latter had followed him and tried to pass him. “It would have been a complicated decision. We don’t want to end up like this… We can possibly block, but is it fair?he wondered, in remarks reported by motorsport.com. I don’t think it would have been the nicest way to end this world championship and end the season like this.”

The double world champion added that he had the impression that Pérez would catch Leclerc and overtake him, but that he lost time between Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) and Alexander Albon (Williams), in a fight. In the Red Bull clan, everyone was obviously not willing to try everything to help the Mexican. Who also meant what he thought by overflowing his French “teammate”.

In the end, this end still suited Christian Horner. “All credit goes to Charles for his seasonsaid the Red Bull team principal. He ran brilliantly, very cleanly against our two riders.” The Monegasque is indeed vice-world champion with the manner, which Sergio Pérez could not have boasted.

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Abu Dhabi Grand Prix | Max Verstappen (Red Bull) was not ready to do anything to help Sergio Pérez: “Is it fair?”