Jolyon Palmer says Red Bull took a huge gamble after Max Verstappen’s disastrous crash at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and didn’t make it easy for Sergio Perez.
Perez ended up winning a topsy-turvy chaotic race in Baku, but it could have been worse. Jonathan Wheatley came up with a plan of causing the race to be red-flagged, so that their drivers could change tires. Palmer argued this strategy could have cost Checo his victory.
In his column for f1.com, Palmer wrote, “It was an interesting decision from Red Bull to speak to FIA Race Director Michael Masi about red-flagging the race, particularly as their man Sergio Perez would have won more comfortably otherwise.”
Palmer noted that Verstappen’s car would have never been out in time, so the chances of the race restarting were quite slim. “Under Safety Car conditions it is quite unlikely that any more drivers would suffer blowouts,” he explained.
“Whether it was Red Bull’s radio call to Masi that influenced his decision or not, it meant that Perez had a lot more work to do, to win a race that he had in the bag, as a red flag meant a full standing restart.”
Palmer is entirely accurate, as it was a rather strange decision from Red Bull. Perhaps they were still reeling from the unfortunate crash. But in the race, there were other instances where Perez wasn’t backed as much as Verstappen was.
This included a pit stop that was executed in less than two seconds for the Dutchman. When it came to the Mexican, it took a while. It was of course team strategy to aid the WDC leader in Verstappen, but you have to back your driver when he is every bit as fast.
Meanwhile, Perez found himself as the man to beat when Verstappen retired. After the restart, Lewis Hamilton was gaining on him, until disaster struck for him as well.
With newfound hope, Perez held on to his lead, and won his first race for Red Bull. But take nothing away from the heroics and consistency he showed throughout the race.
Thanks to Perez, Red Bull now sits ahead of Mercedes by a good margin. With Verstappen and Perez both in form, they are the team to beat this season.