Speed vs Reliability - Verstappen & Red Bull's 2022 Dilemma
Red Bull have a fast 2022 car but what good does speed do if you can't finish the race??
3 races into Max Verstappen's championship defense and he has one win and two DNF's to show for it. After kick starting his season with a victory in Jeddah, Red Bull and Verstappen were hoping to start chipping away at Leclerc's championship lead in Melbourne. But disaster struck once again for the second time in three races as Verstappen retired on Lap 39 with a suspected fuel system issue. We're only three races into the 2022 season but Verstappen already trails Leclerc by 46 points and his championship aspirations seem to be drifting away. Red Bull have a dilemma on their hands with the RB18 as the car is very fast but it has also shown to be unreliable in the early stages of 2022. So in today's video, we'll look at the debate of speed vs reliability and what went wrong for Verstappen in Australia.
A Weekend to Forget in Melbourne
Verstappen was on his way to a comfortable P2 in Melbourne before suddenly pulling off to the side of the track on Lap 39 which brought an end to his Australian Grand Prix. The team believes it was a fuel system leak as Verstappen reported fluid leaking from his RB18. "It looks like a fuel system issue external to the tank that’s caused the issue," said Christian Horner post-race. “Obviously it’s gone into quarantine, parts will return to Japan. We will obviously try to understand the problem as quickly as we can.” Horner stressed that the Melbourne failure was not related to the Bahrain issue that saw both Red Bull's fail to finish the race. The DNF was just a culmination of a frustrating weekend for Verstappen who never seemed pleased with his car. High track evolution lead to Red Bull focusing on rear tyre graining but the issue from Saturday onwards actually became graining on the fronts. Verstappen struggled with the balance in qualifying and suffered from high tyre degradation in the race. Despite the DNF, Verstappen never really had much of a chance of challenging Leclerc as the F1-75 was loving the new Melbourne layout and cruised to a Grand Slam victory. Red Bull clearly have some work to do to catch up to the performance of Ferrari. Helmut Marko stated post race in Australia that the RB18 is ten kilos heavier than the F1-75 and that they're losing three tenths based on weight alone. Updates are in the pipeline for the team but car performance aside, the reliability issue has to be far more concerning for Red Bull.
Speed vs Reliability, Which One Would You Rather Have?
An interesting debate emerged after the finish of the Australian Grand Prix with comments from Red Bull and Mercedes personnel. In response to Red Bull's reliability problems, Christian Horner stated; "I'd rather fix a fast car, than try and make a reliable slow one fast." Mercedes' George Russell had a slightly different view of things after scoring his first podium for the team saying; "it doesn't matter how fast your car is if you don't make it to the end." So who is right in this debate and which one would you rather have, speed or reliability? Well, if we take a look at both drivers and constructors championship standings, you'd tend to agree with Russell's statement. Despite Mercedes' porpoising issues and lack of pace, Russell is currently sitting second in the driver's championship with his team owning a ten point advantage on Red Bull. This would back up the old saying of, "in order to finish first, first you must finish!" Horner's point is a fair one as well that it is much harder to make a slow car faster but F1 history has shown us that it's not always the fastest car that wins the championship. Will the RB18 end up being like the McLaren MP4-20 in 2005? In that season, McLaren won 10 out of 18 races and was on average the fastest car on most circuits. But the Achilles heel was the Mercedes engine as too many DNF's caused Raikkonen to miss out on the title to Fernando Alonso and McLaren losing out on the constructor's title as well. So which one would you rather have in an F1 car? Great speed, or bulletproof reliability? Let us know in the comments below!
Is Verstappen's 2022 Title Bid Over?
There are still 20 races to go and anything can happen in Formula 1. Verstappen's 2022 title bid is far from over but the reigning World Champion has a steep mountain to climb. Verstappen would need the largest points turnaround in the 25 point era if he were to win the title from here. At a 46 point deficit, it would be a bigger comeback than Vettel's 2012 44 point bounce back to win the championship. With new cars this year, there is a greater chance to make a comeback for Red Bull as the development race will be greater than years prior. But with Ferrari and Leclerc firing on all cylinders and showing their strengths everywhere, Red Bull will need to be faultless from now on to ensure a chance at this year's title. Coming off a 2021 season in which the team was almost bulletproof reliability wise, this is not the start the defending champions were hoping for. Verstappen is getting flashbacks of his early Red Bull days with these issues and as things stand, Max is not even thinking about the championship. “We’re already miles behind so, I don’t even want to think about the championship fight at the moment, I think it’s more important to finish races.” The hope is that Red Bull can solve these issues for the rest of the year and we can get the title fight we expected after the first two races. But with Ferrari's form and ever growing points gap, it might be a runaway title run for the Scuderia in 2022.