Max Verstappen talks through the pit stop in F1 Azerbaijan GP and small teething issues he had, as Christian Horner adds on strategy.
It was a marginal call from Red Bull in F1 Azerbaijan GP which eventually had big implications for Verstappen who ended up second to teammate Sergio Perez after running in lead in the early part having passed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
There was pressure from Perez as well, which did play a small role in Red Bull electing to pit Verstappen slightly earlier than the scheduled. And for once they ended up misjudging for various reasons when AlphaTauri’s Nyck de Vries stopped on circuit.
Horner said they did see de Vries stopped but they didn’t realise that he had clipped the wall and it was not that he just went off. The call was made much before they could react to a possible safety car. Interestingly, Verstappen had more tyres left still.
There is no clarity on why they stopped early as Verstappen conveyed that he didn’t actually use his tyres aggressively which allowed Perez to close in. The Dutchman reckons the team can review the pit call, but reiterated that these things can happen.
Regarding the things he was talking on the radio, Verstappen noted how he uses different settings than to Perez and that didn’t work on his side as cleanly he would have wanted to. That is why he spent a large chunk in changing those during the grand prix.
Pit call, pushing Perez –
Verstappen: “I think the weekend in general, a bit messy, but I think that can be expected with this format. But the race today, I think the first stint, probably I could have been a little bit more aggressive with the way I was using my tyres. I think I was just too careful. And that’s why, you know, Checo was still quite close to me. And then of course, we made the call to pit. I mean, I saw that there was a car stopped, I thought he maybe just locked-up. In hindsight, I mean, I can’t see that but yeah, it’s something to review. I mean, clearly you could see there was one wheel damaged and it looked like he was not going to drive that anyway back to the pits, even if he would have reversed, so something to look at, because of course that then did hurt my race after that.
“Then after the Safety Car, I tried to put the pressure on Checo, to try and get into that DRS. I think one time, I was pretty close to getting it. But it was just hanging in there, really close, trying to really catch-up probably damage my tyres a bit too much early on for such a long stint. So, then at one point, I just settled-in, tried to do a little bit my own thing, to not damage the tyres completely to the end. But it was just very difficult to have a good balance, entry to mid-corner. And a lot of the lap time here is about entry-to-mid corner, to get that right. And I was just struggling with oversteer then understeer. So, the whole race, I was just trying a lot of things on my steering wheel to try and get a bit of a better feeling, balance in the car. And I actually think that I found a good compromise towards the end of the race because I think my last 10 laps were a lot stronger. And I felt a lot happier with the car, how everything was behaving.
“So, I think all in all, I can be quite pleased with second. I mean, of course you always want to win, right? But I think sometimes you need these kinds of weekends to learn and have a better understanding of the car. Of what the car needs to go faster. And sometimes on the street circuit like this, it really comes out. Like, sometimes these kinds of things might get a bit masked on a normal track because of downforce and just the general behaviour of a car. So, maybe this was a good day, you know, to go forward.”
Saw on TV that de Vries stopped but still pitted –
Verstappen: “I mean, I could see the car stopping but, I mean, you see it on the screen, you cannot look into detail if every wheel is connected to the car properly. I mean, of course, the team has bit more overview to that. But like I said, we’ll look into that if there was anything we could have done different. But I also don’t know when the exact call came to pit, right? So yeah, it’s difficult to say at the moment.”
Differential/engine braking issues talk on radio –
Verstappen: “They were not issues. There was not a problem with it. I’m probably operating them a bit differently to Checo. And like I said, maybe I’m not using the correct settings with these new tyres and probably it was a little bit more highlighted on a street circuit where there’s a lot of confidence needed on entry to mid-corner and that balance really needs to be as close to perfection basically. So yeah, I was just struggling a lot with that today at the beginning and then I was trying a few things.
“Sometimes, of course I didn’t get it right but then towards the end I think I found – let’s say – the right settings from entry- to mid- to exit and also the team was helping me a bit and I had a few questions. So a few things to review for the upcoming races, what we can do better operationally, but again, sometimes you have weekends where you don’t need to touch the car, everything is perfect and it’s a rocket ship and we still have a rocket ship but still to fine tune basically so far this year, I think.”
Pit call for Verstappen –
Horner: “You know, with 20/20 hindsight, you’d have left him another lap. At the time, from what we could see, we decided to pit Max because he was starting to struggle a little bit with it with the rears of his car and Sergio Perez was obviously right up behind him. So we decided from a strategy point of view it was the optimum time to take the stop. And De Vries from the glimpse that we got, all four wheels were on the car, he hadn’t hit the barrier and the engine was running, it looked like he’d select reverse and carry on. So you’d never expected that to go to a safety car. So obviously, with 20/20 vision, you would have just done one more lap and go from there. But you just don’t know at that point whether Charles is going to pit and then he suddenly he jumps both of them.”
Time to take such calls –
Horner: “The problem was we didn’t have the visibility on De Vries. So it was a quick shot of him and it was just a black set of lines. It looked like he’d outbraked himself, gone straight on hadn’t hit the barrier. So usually, if you see a car in the barriers here it’s a safety car, but there was no sign of it, having hit the barrier and so on. Yeah, it was only subsequently I think on the replays that you were able to see his track rod was broken.
“Obviously, as a collective it comes up, the strategists are making the recommendation, the team managers controlling the pitstop and obviously, looking at the circuit in terms of whether it’s a yellow or a normal probability of a safety car. The race engineer is obviously looking at it as well. So, we have a process. We were at one stage talking about gearing up for a double stop. But it was one of those things that sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t.”
.@Charles_Leclerc finished P1, P2 and P3 all in one in #AzerbaijanGP! From sitting in @SChecoPerez's P1 seat in cool down room, he stood in @Max33Verstappen's P2 place on podium – they swapped the flags later on. #F1 | @MsportXtra pic.twitter.com/56tRFKntf5
— Darshan Chokhani (@DarshanChokhani) April 30, 2023
Here’s how F1 Azerbaijan GP panned out