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F1: Sergio Perez accused of ‘lying’ to mask Australian GP mistake

Cheered on: Red Bull’s Mexican driver Sergio Perez racing in front of his home fans

The 2023 Formula 1 season is almost certainly going to be dominated by Red Bull Racing. In terms of the Constructors’ World Championship title, the Austrian team’s pace has been head and shoulders above the rest of the field. However, a controversy is brewing internally due to the competition between the team’s two drivers. Australian journalist Peter Windsor believes that Sergio Perez may have lied in order to save face after making a mistake in the most recent race in Australia.

Before we discuss the incident in question, let’s have a look at the situation at Red Bull. The Red Bulls have won all three races in the 2023 season so far. Reigning world champion Max Verstappen won the opening race in Bahrain with a sizeable gap over the rest of the field. Perez came in at P2 almost 12 seconds behind the Dutchman.

In the second race in Saudi Arabia, Verstappen encountered a driveshaft problem and bowed out of Q2, meaning he had to start from 15th place. Nevertheless, he managed to work his way up the field to make it to P2 behind Perez, who made a big fuss over the radio about no longer pushing in the final laps. He also questioned whether he and Verstappen should be allowed to compete for the fastest lap and the bonus point that goes with it.

Verstappen did not push hard enough to try to catch Perez, but he maintained the championship lead by snatching the fastest lap in the end. Even in the cool down room, Perez was heard grilling Verstappen about the instructions he received from the team about target lap times in the closing stages of the race.

Heading into the third race in Australia, Verstappen (44 points) held a narrow 1-point advantage over Perez (43 points) thanks to that fastest lap bonus. Perez had never led a championship before, which is perhaps why it meant a lot to him if he kept that advantage.

The race in Australia was crucial for either driver to be able to open up a gap to the person behind. Unfortunately for Perez, he managed to park his car in the gravel in Q1, therefore putting himself at the back of the grid.

After the incident, he went to the radio immediately to complain that there was a problem with his brakes. Speaking to the media after Qualifying, he said: “This morning we had the issue. We thought we had fixed it. But this morning I was just going all around. I was riding more on the grass than on the track but we thought we had fixed it. So, I was pretty confident on that part, but that wasn’t the case as soon as I touched the brake in Turn 3.”

Team Principal Christian Horner later spoke up as well, saying that there was “no major issue” with the Mexican’s car during FP3. He then said that Perez locked up ahead of his trip to the gravel before saying that they still need to find out if there was anything in the car that contributed to the incident.

“On that first lap, he has gone in, pushed quite hard, and locked up and unfortunately ran into the gravel, and unfortunately this time not been able to come out the other side. So, we are just looking at what has contributed to that and if there is something, it will not be there tomorrow [Sunday],” he said.

Is the team secretly relieved that Perez had a reality check?

Putting all of this together, Windsor believes there was nothing really wrong with the car and that Perez simply said so to take the blame off himself. He also thinks that some key personnel in the Red Bull may think that it could be a blessing in disguise. The tension is clearly growing within the team as Perez continues to try to usurp Verstappen’s status.

“I think in reality Red Bull were actually quite relieved that had happened because as I said he [Perez] came from Saudi Arabia as the winner of the race and I didn’t see it in the media but apparently he’d been saying things like, ‘Oh yeah. I can win this championship.'”

Speaking on his YouTube channel, Windsor added that the team probably wanted to find a way to get Perez to calm down and know his place. “Red Bull were like, ‘Whoa hang on Sergio. Just take it, cool mate, you know you are number two to Max Verstappen.’ I think this was like a reality check of now you know that you’re not Max Verstappen. I think there was a little bit of relief at Red Bull.”

Did Perez lie about the brake issue?

Perez had initially spoken about a brake problem in FP3, and Horner then said that there was something in the engine that was causing the issue. However, after the Qualifying incident, Horner said that “if” there was something wrong with the car, then they would try to fix it before the main race.

The operative word was of course “if” and the silence from the Red Bull camp thereafter was telling. Perez seemed to be able to run without the problem when the race took place on Sunday, and was even able to finish in P5 despite starting from all the way at the back. Verstappen won the race, therefore extending his lead in the championship.

Either way, the incident may have given Red Bull a short respite from the internal competition that they find themselves having to defuse. The rest of the field is falling back rather rapidly, and it seems like the real battle will be waged between the two sides of the Red Bull garage this year.

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