Formula 1 Racing

Verstappen “absolutely” wasn’t going to win even if he hadn’t retired

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Sergio Perez is convinced Ferrari would have won the Australian Grand Prix even if Max Verstappen hadn’t retired.

Verstappen led the field at the start but was out within three laps as his left-rear brake stuck on and overheated. Perez, who finished fifth behind the Ferrari and McLaren drivers, is convinced Red Bull didn’t have the pace to outrun winner Carlos Sainz Jnr.

“As a team we just didn’t have the pace today,” he told Sky. “We didn’t have the pace throughout the weekend.

“We were struggling already from Friday and we never got on top of the management of tyres. I think we just have to understand and make sure we are able to improve.

“We already saw last year in a track like this, for example Vegas a front-limited track, Ferrari was a lot stronger than us. So we just couldn’t look after the front tyres.”

Asked whether Ferrari would have won even if Verstappen hadn’t retired, Perez said: “Absolutely, yes.”

Although Perez out-qualified all bar one of the team’s rival cars, before a penalty dropped him to sixth on the grid, he believes Red Bull’s race pace was not as strong as its closest rivals’.

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“We didn’t have the pace, unfortunately,” he said. “I think we struggled early on.

“We could see that Ferrari and McLaren were a step ahead of us. I think we just couldn’t get the balance in the window. There’s some work to do for the coming races. It was a very unique Tarmac and just throughout the weekend we were not able to manage the best possible grip level.”

After the race Red Bull team principal Christian Horner apologised to Perez on the radio: “Not our finest race, Checo,” he said. “Sorry about that. Plenty of lessons out of today.”

However speaking afterwards Horner revealed the sole RB20 to reach the chequered flag was affected by damage.

“He’s probably not aware of it, but he picked up a bit of damage whilst he was passing Fernando [Alonso],” said Horner. “He lost a significant amount of downforce from the floor of the car. So we just need to get the car back to understand exactly what’s caused that. As soon as you get that, then your tyre deg gets worse.”

However Horner concede “we were just not good at the end of the stints, which has been an unusual trait for our cars, so we need to understand that.”

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