Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says that his team go to “pains” to ensure parity between drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
The Red Bull duo have taken two grand prix wins each in the opening four rounds of the 2023 season. They sit comfortably on top of the drivers’ championship standings heading into this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix.
Verstappen had been leading last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix before the team called him into the pits just before the Safety Car was deployed. Perez took the lead and pitted under the next lap, retaining first place, before leading the rest of the race to take the victory.
A rift between the pair developed at the penultimate race of last season in Brazil, when Verstappen refused a team order to allow Perez to re-pass him on the final lap. Verstappen’s refusal was believed to be in connection to an incident at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix, when Perez beat him in qualifying after crashing and causing a red flag.
As Red Bull enjoy a healthy advantage over their rivals, this year’s world championship is likely to be won by one of their drivers. Horner said the team have therefore worked hard place to avoid giving either driver referential treatment.
“I think that it’s a luxury problem, first of all,” Horner said. “I think any team principal in the pit lane would hope to have that issue.
“It’s something we’ve experienced before and I think the most key thing is to ensure that paranoia doesn’t creep in, that both drivers are treated equally.”
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Red Bull make every effort to ensure both their drivers are treated as equally and fairly as possible, Horner said.
“You go to pains to provide equality to the point of who drives out the garage first each weekend, it alternates,” he said. “It even alternates in the debrief who talks first. But it’s racing, it’s Formula 1, and occasionally something will happen like a Safety Car or a pit stop.
“You can’t control every aspect within the sport – there are still variables. I think so long as the drivers know that they’re both getting an equal chance and it’s ultimately down to what they do on the circuit, that’s where you want it to play out. Not through reliability, for example, to play a key role in a championship fight between your two drivers within your own team.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, who experienced years of tension between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg said he empathised with Horner’s efforts to keep both his Red Bull drivers happy.
“From my past, it’s a super-tricky job for Christian and the team,” said Wolff. “Because both drivers will obviously try to always feel that they’re fairly and equally treated whilst at the same time trying to have an advantage.
“I think in our team it was important to maintain a lot of transparency and clarity – discuss things before we actually go racing on a Sunday. Put boundaries. And at the end both drivers – even with Nico and Lewis – respected the team’s opinion whilst we acknowledged that they have a fight on between the two of them.”
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Hamilton and Rosberg collided with each other while disputing the lead of the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, putting both out. Wolff admitted that “going back in time, there’s things I probably would have done differently, in 2016 particularly.
“But getting the balance right between accepting that these two guys are racing for a championship and it’s within the same garage and, at the same time, they are part of a larger structure, I think that’s not always easy because they are very competitive animals.”
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2023 Miami Grand Prix
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