The Saudi Arabian GP was notable for the retirements of Fernando Alonso (Alpine), Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) and Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) within a lap of each other, with the first two parking at close proximity at the pit entry.
Alonso’s unspecified Renault power unit problem followed engine issues for the Spaniard during the Bahrain GP, although he managed to finish the Sakhir race.
Szafnauer says that the wave of retirements reflects the fact that the cars are so new, and also that the power unit manufacturers were in a race to get all possible developments to the track as quickly as possible, because of the freeze on most elements that came into force on March 1.
“A couple of things happened which have an impact on that,” said the American of the attrition in Jeddah. “One, the cars are all new.
“So you’ve got 100% new parts on the car, which is rare. Usually you carry over a decent percentage of the parts. And when you have carry over stuff, they’re proven from a reliability standpoint.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB18, retires
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“And the other thing that happened is everybody knew that an engine freeze was coming. So every engine manufacturer was making changes, and when you have changes, both car and engine, those types of things happen, especially when you’re pushing for performance.”
Szafnauer says in the circumstances there have been relatively few mechanical retirements thus far.
“My real surprise isn’t that there are reliability issues, my real surprise is that they’re aren’t more of them, because everything’s so new. I think everyone’s done a really, really good job on the reliability front.
“Remember the old days? You’d come to the first race and eight cars would finish or six cars would finish.
“So with this being a totally new package, and everyone doing a revamped engine for the freeze, I’m amazed how good the cars are.”