When Sergio Perez, after twenty laps in Miami, uttered the words “I’m losing strength” said, Red Bull’s thoughts immediately went back to the reliability issues in Bahrain and Australia. Surely it wouldn’t herald another clumsy DNF? The answer was “no,” though Horner reveals it didn’t matter much. “It was very close in terms of DNF.”
The problem was known to be a fluctuating sensor. “Checo had to pull this off. A sensor on one of its cylinders started working against it. As a result, the men behind the scenes had to rebuild a lot of things with the sensors. They did well, although Checo was missing almost thirty horsepower for the remainder of the race. Converted into lap times, he lost half a second per lap.”
That explains why Perez got stuck behind Carlos Sainz on a softer compound. “Without this handicap and with the tire advantage he had after the safety car, he could have taken P2,” says Horner. It was Red Bull’s second double win in a row. The Mexican goes even further, saying he could have easily fought for the win. In the top four, Perez was the only one on medium: “Max had already passed the entrance to the pit lane when the virtual safety car became a real safety car,” explains Horner. “We were afraid for a moment that Ferrari would run both cars on softs, but luckily that didn’t happen.”
Perez attempted a futile attack in the closing stages, but Horner doesn’t blame his driver for that overzealous attempt. “He did a great job getting close to the Ferraris at all. Even with new tires he was still half a second slower than our car with a good top speed.” That Perez Sainz was able to attack with a 30hp handicap says something about Red Bull’s top speed in Miami.
RB18 not a vulnerable car, DNF’s partly unlucky
The sensor problem may not have been Red Bull’s undoing, but like previous fuel issues, it’s a detail that could prove expensive. It was not for nothing that Max Verstappen said afterwards that many things still needed to be improved and Horner agrees. “When speaking about this sensor issue, we work closely with HRC [Honda] to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The suggestion that the RB18 is vulnerable is Horner’s point Motorsport.com however out of hand. “I don’t think we have a vulnerable car. It’s just little things that usually come to light during winter tests. We’re just unlucky that these things only happened during the season. But again, we’re working hard on this with HRC and “we’re getting great support from them,” Horner points out, pointing out the Japanese help that’s still there behind the scenes.