Formula 1 Racing

Was Perez right that even a reliable Red Bull wouldn’t have beaten Ferrari? · RaceFans

Carlos Sainz Jnr,

After two consecutive Red Bull one-twos at the start of the season, few might have expected yesterday’s one-two for Ferrari in Australia.

The SF-24s of Carlos Sainz Jnr and Charles Leclerc led the field home thanks in part to Max Verstappen’s surprise retirement – his first in two years. But the two drivers believe their car’s long-run pace was strong enough that they could have won even if Verstappen had stayed in the race.

Charles Leclerc, who was the quicker of the two Ferrari drivers until qualifying, said the team felt victory was within its reach from the start of the weekend.

“It’s been a long time since we have had the genuine pace to have Red Bull – I wouldn’t say under control, because we don’t know what was the real pace of Max today – but I will say that from FP1, we knew that pole position and the race win was possible because we had very good tyre degradation, very good pace, and that is a very encouraging sign.”

2024 Australian Grand Prix lap times

All the lap times by the drivers (in seconds, very slow laps excluded). Scroll to zoom, drag to pan and toggle drivers using the control below:

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As Leclerc acknowledged, the key question is how quick Verstappen would have been had he continued in the race. According to Red Bull his right-rear brake was locked on from the start, so there’s no representative data from his race – other than the fact he can beat a Ferrari to turn one from a standing start with one brake on.

Ferrari believe they could have challenged Red Bull without Verstappen’s retirement

The other Red Bull of Sergio Perez was 36 seconds behind Sainz when the second Virtual Safety Car period began on the penultimate lap. He finished 22 and eight seconds behind Verstappen in the first two races (ignoring his five-second time penalty in the latter), so on the face of it Ferrari are correct in saying Red Bull were further off the pace than usual in Melbourne.

Even Perez echoed that view, saying he felt it was “absolutely” the case Verstappen’s retirement did not cost him victory. However Red Bull later revealed Perez’s pace was compromised by a visor tear-off which became stuck to his car’s floor, ruining its aerodynamics. That may have given the Ferrari drivers undue optimism about their performance compared to Red Bull last weekend.

Nonetheless, Carlos Sainz Jnr is optimistic Melbourne won’t be the last time Ferrari can put Red Bull under pressure, and…

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