Competition already expected tire problems at Red Bull: ‘Verstappen’s tires were damaged’

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Competition already expected tire problems at Red Bull: 'Verstappen's tires were damaged'

McLaren had its act together well in Melbourne: Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri finished third and fourth in Australia, in a race characterized by high tire wear. The McLaren duo had the lowest tire wear, while Red Bull Racing, with Sergio Pérez as the only driver, had a tough time.

McLaren team boss Andrea Stella saw at Motorsport Total that his team had mastered the management of the Pirelli tires, but also indicated that it is a complex matter and he does not understand everything. Red Bull was at the bottom of the tire degradation list, as shown in the graph below, but the Italian team boss did not dare to say whether Red Bull has more difficulty with an asphalt layer that is a bit smoother and is more likely to suffer from graining. “If you know someone who has enough expertise to explain these situations well, I would hire them without hesitation,” Stella laughs.

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Red Bull with the highest tire degradation, McLaren excels: 'Verstappen's tires were damaged'
Tire wear in Melbourne. (Source: PACETEQ)

Pérez always showed at the start of his stints that the basic speed of the RB20 was fine, as was also seen in qualifying, but the Mexican continued to fall far back in the second part of his stints. The 34-year-old Red Bull driver already feared the graining of the Pirelli rubber in advance, and Max Verstappen also suffered from graining on Friday.

Differences per circuit

Stella noticed that Red Bull in particular handled the tires poorly. ‘In Bahrain, Red Bull was the only team that could use the soft tires without any problems. However, in Bahrain you do not suffer from graining. You cannot get graining in Bahrain, because the asphalt there does not provide enough grip to load the tires to such an extent that there is enough pressure on the tires to cause graining.’ Stella seems to indicate that Red Bull will probably continue to do well on circuits with a rough asphalt layer, such as Suzuka, and less well on a circuit with smoother asphalt.

Stella, originally an engineer who worked with drivers such as Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, and Kimi Räikkönen, expected a different situation on the street circuit in Australia. ‘The conditions here were completely different than in Bahrain. However, it is not so easy to look at this from a technical perspective and decide what to do with the car on the different circuits. Otherwise everyone would do that.’

Red Bull problems quickly visible

After qualifying, Verstappen already indicated that he expected a difficult race, and as so often happens, the Dutchman’s prediction turned out to be correct. Verstappen himself may not have raced for long, but teammate Pérez was clearly unable to imitate his performance from the first two races. “In the third free practice, when Verstappen did a long run, that was not a good race simulation,” Stella saw. ‘When we checked his tires at the end of that long run, they were clearly worn after ten to fifteen laps. Red Bull clearly had no advantage with tire management on a circuit with soft tires.’

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