Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has declared his team’s recent car failures “unacceptable” after Max Verstappen suffered his second retirement in three races in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
Verstappen was suddenly asked to "turn the engine off" on lap 39, with the title-holder conceding he could "smell some weird fluid" and the team is now delving into the data to determine the issue.
The DNF followed a disappointing late incident in the season-opening race in Bahrain and both cost the Dutch driver potential second-place finishes, adding up to 36 points lost.
Horner said: “It’s totally understandable, his frustration. That was a really disappointing result not to finish the race.
"We need to get on top of it. We can’t accept DNFs. We need to understand what the issue is and address it.
“I don’t think it’s engine related. I think it might be a fuel issue, but we need to get the car back and look at what exactly happened. Until we get the car back we don’t have data, we don’t have the info.”
Red Bull is now only third in the constructors' championship, with Mercedes and Ferrari ahead, but asked if he was concerned by the fragility of the car Horner said: “I’d rather fix a fast car than try to make a reliable slow one fast.
“We’ve got things in the pipeline that I think will help and we move back to Europe now and need to put this behind us, address it and move on."
Horner – Ferrari was “in another league”
Championship leader Charles Leclerc has already amassed 71 points from the first three races, opening up a 46-point cushion over Verstappen.
Even if Verstappen had finished, Red Bull was off the race pace of Ferrari around Albert Park.
Horner added: “[It is] desperately frustrating. We didn’t have the pace to race Charles today, they were in a league of their own.
“It would be fair to say [Max] hadn’t been happy all weekend with getting the car in the window and you can see the front tyres open up quite quickly in the race and that’s usually the sign you haven’t got your balance totally tuned in.
“You could see Charles had the lowest deg and when your car’s in a happy place you don’t have those problems.
"He didn’t have the blistering, he didn’t have the graining, to the extent that others had and to an extent that accentuated some of the issues that Max had.
“I think conditions are slightly different today compared to Friday, but today we expected to be a lot closer to Ferrari on pace and they were untouchable today, so congratulations to them but we have still got some work to do.
“We just didn’t, as a team, have the pace to beat Charles today. Their car on these tyres, on this surface, at this track today was untouchable, which we didn’t see on Friday. It came alive for them today.”