Max Verstappen says the claim that Red Bull is purposefully holding back its performance, as expressed by George Russell, is wrong.
In Australia last weekend, Red Bull conquered its third consecutive win of the season, courtesy of another flawless performance by Verstappen.
But Mercedes’ pace in the opening laps of the race, during which Russell and teammate Lewis Hamilton led proceedings, suggested that the Brackley squad was drawing closer to its rival in race trim.
However, Russell contended after the race that Red Bull had pace in hand and that the team was reluctant to unleash the full potential of its RB19 for fear of sparking a regulation change by the FIA
“For sure they’re holding back,” Russell claimed. “I think they are almost embarrassed to show their full potential because the faster they seem, the more that the sport is going to try and hold them back somehow.”
Russell: Red Bull ‘holding back’ for fear of FIA intervention
But Verstappen pushed back on the Briton’s allegation.
“I mean, I think anyway, there’s nothing really they can do,” the reigning world champion told the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast, referring to an interference by the FIA.
The Dutchman insisted any perception that Red Bull was holding back was wrong and it was being confused with “pace management”.
“I mean, we just try to do the best we can with the development of the car, but it’s also about pace management, because we didn’t really know – I think no one really knew – how long that hard tyre would last,” he said.
“So it’s about just bringing it home because we had a bit of pace I think over the others, and there’s no need to try and gain half a second a lap and destroy your tyres to the end because you never know, a Safety Car can happen, red flags, like we had today.
“So yeah, it’s not necessary to risk all that.”
Asked candidly after the race if Red Bull was purposefully restraining itself, team boss Christian Horner pointed to Sergio Perez’s charge through the field as evidence that there was no deliberate holding back going on.
“There’s always an element of managing that goes on in any race,” Horner explained.
“Because it was a one-stop race and a very early one-stop race, of course there was an element of tyre management which was going on, which was what they were doing.
“Checo wasn’t hanging about, he wasn’t cruising around, holding back seven-tenths per lap, because he didn’t want to show it. The grid was certainly a little bit closer here at this venue [in Australia].”
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