F1 preview: A lap of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Christian Horner’s post-race radio message to Max Verstappen at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix showed that the Dutchman is still considered by Red Bull as their main contender for the Drivers’ Championship title, according to Sky Sports reporter Ted Kravitz. Verstappen was forced to settle for a second-placed finish on the streets of Baku behind team-mate Sergio Perez, who drove a near-perfect race to claim the spoils and move to within six points of his Red Bull colleague in the individual standings.
Perez was given a helping hand by the timing of the safety car period, which saw him move into the lead after Verstappen had pitted just moments before the yellow flags were brought out following Nyck de Vries’ retirement. Horner appeared to suggest that Verstappen only failed to win because of his bad luck after the end of the race, telling the 25-year-old via team radio: “Checo got a little lucky with the safety car there, but it’s a long, long season and very good points today. Great team result, well done.”
Kravitz went on to share his own theory about the inter-team dynamic at Red Bull after hearing the radio messages from both drivers at the end of the Grand Prix, saying: “I thought the Perez radio message was interesting, when he said: ‘Look, guys, we are still in the fight’.
“It sounded like Perez was talking to his engineer and mechanics only, and not the rest of the team. He was saying: ‘We are still in the fight, we can’t have issues like we did in Melbourne and we can still get this championship’. But then you’ve got Horner on the pit wall with what sounded like reassuring radio messages to Max, saying: ‘Never mind, Checo got lucky with the safety car, but it’s a long, long season’.
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“That, to my ears and to anyone reasonable, sounds like Horner saying to Max: ‘Look, don’t worry, you’re still our man for the championship’. Checo is thinking: ‘Hang on, I’ll fight tooth and nail to be the man to fight for the championship’.”
Perez was quicker than Verstappen over the course of their respective second stints in Baku and ended up finishing over two seconds clear of his Red Bull team-mate due to the latter’s inability to catch up after the safety car period. The Mexican driver went on to insist that he is more than good enough to compete for the Drivers’ Championship title alongside Verstappen, who is hoping to win the end-of-season honours for the third time in as many years.
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“Having three kids at home, I wouldn’t be travelling around the world if I didn’t believe that I can be a world champion and I’m working towards that,” Perez told Sky Sports. “There is so much you can talk outside the car, it’s important to deliver on the track and I think without the issues we had in qualifying in Melbourne we should be leading the championship.
“Definitely there is everything to believe that we can do well this year. We are just pushing each other massively and I think this year is about not making those mistakes. I am fighting for it but I also know it’s a long road ahead.”
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