Charles Leclerc always had a finish, and his opponent Max Verstappen only once. Will reliability be a major factor this year? The question also arises in the field of stalking. Mercedes was the only team to have both drivers on points in all three races.
Stability has become almost a natural issue in recent years. The 2021 season was the year with the fewest technical failures in F1 history, with 1.2 Grand Prix failures recorded, followed by 1.4 per race in 2019 and 1.5 in 2020.
In the first three races of this year, the technology has already hit eight times. After his second failure in his third Grand Prix, Max Verstappen quipped: “I need 45 races to make up for my world championship deficit.” After the flaws, Ferrari is leading against Red Bull from zero to three.
Even in the list of driving units, things are looking pretty grumpy for some drivers. Fernando Alonso and Yuki Tsunoda have already installed the third unit of the engine, the MGU-H and MGU-K turbochargers in Melbourne. In Tsunoda two engines were irreparably lost, in Alonso two. Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris and Sebastian Vettel already have a “2” for the four main components of the drive.
3rd place with the second fastest car
For now, reliability is again a factor that makes all the difference. Verstappen 45 points behind Charles Leclerc. Red Bull has the second fastest car, but is only third in the championship standings. Mercedes is ten points behind, which, according to their own statements, is currently only fifth in the field in terms of speed. But the number one runner in terms of efficiency. The World Builders Champion was the only team to have both cars in points in all races.
Alpine gave many points due to technical problems. Alonso was on his way to the 6 in Jeddah when a malfunctioning water pump killed the engine. Fortunately, Bahrain’s faltering engine is back in order.
The oil spill that caused Alonso’s qualifying accident in Melbourne indirectly cost him world championship points on Sunday. A poor starting position led Alpine to a risky strategy that did not work. “The speed of the car is good, the reliability is not. We give up a lot of points,” said Laurent Rossi, president of Alpine.
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Red Bull’s sports director, Helmut Marko, admits that the many failures are worrying. In the long run, you won’t win anything against Ferrari, which has been strong so far. The alarm went off the morning before the Australian Grand Prix. Red Bull had to replace the hydraulic power transmission circuit at Park Fermi due to a leak.
All Red Bull faults occurred around the engine. Honda itself seems to be washing its hands with innocence. Which raises the question of whether Red Bull hasn’t bothered maintaining a highly complex machine built and maintained in Japan.
Responsibilities are shared in the sister team Alpha Tauri. Honda is responsible for Yuki Tsunoda’s engine failure in Jeddah. The problem seems to be under control. Battery fire in Pierre Gasly’s car is costing Alpha Tauri dearly. The fire destroyed the entire command unit. In the end it doesn’t matter who is to blame.
Daniel Ricciardo stopped in Saudi Arabia with a broken gearbox. The drive unit, which had to be removed as a precaution at Lando Norris’ McLaren ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, does not need to be idle. Return to the pool again.
Haas can breathe a sigh of relief, too: a Ferrari engine survived in Mick Schumacher’s car crash in Jeddah. That is not certain yet with the engine of Sebastian Vettel, who said goodbye with a cloud of smoke at Friday’s training session in Melbourne.
More reliability means more weight
The large number of technical problems is also due to the fact that the cars are completely new. The engine and transmission are packed into less space. Rebound on straight lanes affects the material. There is still little experience with how the engines will react to E10 fuel in the long run.
Whoever has a reliability problem to solve is the same dilemma as teams looking for a way out of the bouncing trap. Strengthening parts is important. But with the exception of Alfa Romeo, all cars have to significantly reduce their size.
Marko complains: “We are 10 kilograms heavier than the Ferraris, but we have to make our cars more stable.” Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto can imagine that reliability will once again be an important factor this year. “To get there first, you have to get there first,” he quotes an old motorsport wisdom.
His Ferrari is always up. “Reliability is part of performance. If you retire a lot, it can be as big of an issue as if you miss lap times. That’s why consistency is a top priority for us.”