F1 preview: A lap of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
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Max Verstappen has admitted his Red Bull team is “still looking into” the “complicated” problem which saw both their cars fail to finish the Bahrain Grand Prix last weekend. The team looked set for a decent points haul to start the new season, but were thwarted by a mechanical issue which took both Verstappen and Sergio Perez out of the race.
The defending champion had a fierce battle with race winner Charles Leclerc, but was unable to make any of his moves stick as the Ferrari racer defended his lead well. Still, a second-placed finish would have been a solid start to his season, especially considering Lewis Hamilton was unable to catch Perez in his Mercedes and looked destined to cross the line fifth.
However, fate had different plans as Verstappen suddenly lost power in the dying stages of the race, before Perez’s Red Bull also gave up on the final lap. Instead of a 30-point haul, Christian Horner’s team was going to be leaving the track in Bahrain with nothing to show for their efforts.
In an interview with Sky Sports immediately after the race, Horner said that his team was unsure as to what the actual issue was. Shortly after, a Tweet from Red Bull Racing’s official account revealed that it “looks like both Bulls suffered from a suspected fuel pump issue.”
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The paddock is now in Saudi Arabia, for the second part of the double-header which kicks off the new season. Despite several days having passed and practice sessions set to begin on Friday, Verstappen has revealed that his engineers are yet to fully get to the bottom of the issue
“We’re still looking into it – into the exact cause of it – because it’s quite complicated, apparently,” he told Sky Sports F1. “But basically, what happened was there was no fuel going to the engine any more, so the engine turned off at one point.
“I hope of course it is going to be fixed for Sunday, but as of now… I literally just arrived at the track as well so I haven’t really spoken to the team yet, but we’re still looking into it.”
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Red Bull fans will hope that the Dutchman was given better news when he did get the chance to speak to his engineers. If not, then the team could be set for another difficult weekend if it is forced to compete with a car that is prone to suffering a serious problem mid-race.
Meanwhile, another problem for Horner and his team might come in the form of their Mercedes rivals. The Silver Arrows were well off the pace of Ferrari and Red Bull in Bahrain, but one of the team’s top engineers has revealed that a “quick fix” might help the team to be more competitive this weekend.
“We just did a de-brief with the drivers and there is a lot of everything [wrong],” trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin told the F1 Nation podcast. “There’s bouncing, the balance is poor, there is a lack of low-speed grip, we’re struggling on traction, the drivability could be better, the tyre warm-up is not good enough, the car is a bit on the heavy side.
“There’s a lot to improve which gives us some encouragement. I think we’ll get some easy gains, there’s some low-hanging fruit and what we’re hoping is that we can get those in the next race or two. The factory are primed to bring everything they can in the next few days. If we’ve got something useful to bring to Jeddah, we’ll make sure we get it on the car.”
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