Max Verstappen Red Bull favouritism quashed in firm Christian Horner response

Jamie Woodhouse
Sergio Perez standing in front of Max Verstappen.

Sergio Perez started strongly but fell away as the 2023 season went on.

Team boss Christian Horner made it clear that Red Bull do not develop their challengers in a way to suit Max Verstappen.

Red Bull are now able to reflect on an incredible display of dominance in F1 2023, having claimed a remarkable 21 victories out of 22 grands prix.

19 of those went Verstappen’s way as he took his third World Championship with more than double the points of team-mate and closest rival Sergio Perez, Red Bull enjoying a similarly dominant margin of victory over Mercedes in the Constructors’ Championship.

No Max Verstappen preference in Red Bull development

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

F1 2023 started out rather even between the Red Bull drivers, Verstappen and Perez taking two wins apiece in the opening four rounds, but from there it all fell apart for Perez.

Having spoken of his intention to challenge Verstappen for the title, Perez would not win another race and suffered several alarming slumps in form which sparked rumours regarding his future with the team.

Perez claimed that the RB19 had been developed away from his preferences.

“For a driver, it’s really difficult to be adapting to the car instead of just things coming naturally,” he told Sky F1 back in August.

“The last few races, I’ve been a step or two behind and always thinking consciously how I have to drive the car, sometimes with how the car has been developed doesn’t really suit me as much so I have to work harder for it.”

Speaking to media, including PlanetF1.com in reflection on his season, he added: “I had to change my driving style a bit to adapt to the car more than in the beginning of the season when things were coming more naturally.

“But that’s something that most drivers at some point we go through.

“It’s been dominant for Red Bull [this year] but it was quite tough for me. I’m sure we’re going to have a great car again next year. Hopefully [with] a little bit nicer balance on my side, we can keep this going.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 2023: Head-to-head qualifying and race stats between team-mates

F1 Driver of the Day: Who has won the award in F1 2023?

When appearing on the Sky F1 podcast, Horner was asked how different the preferences of Verstappen and Perez are and therefore how tough it is to create a challenger that suits both of them.

Horner would make it clear that Red Bull never develop a car which they feel will suit either side. Instead, they produce what they think is the fastest car and then it is over to the drivers to make the best of it.

“Of course they are different, but we just develop the fastest car that we can and it’s the drivers extract and adapt and get the most out of it,” Horner stated.

“We’re not developing in one route or another, we develop a car to be the most competitive car that we can.

“And then of course, it’s down to the drivers to what can they extract out of it and how they adjust their style and nuances accordingly.”

Verstappen obviously made a far better job of this challenge than Perez did as the Dutchman now goes into F1 2024 as the overwhelming favourite to become a four-time World Champion.

The likes of Mercedes, McLaren and Ferrari are though all looking to take a huge bite out of the Red Bull advantage, so Horner was asked just how much more pace they could extract in response?

Worryingly for such teams, while the RB19 “ticked a lot of boxes”, Horner sees room for further improvement looking ahead to the RB20.

“You can always improve and that’s what Formula 1 is all about,” said Horner.

“It’s always looking at where can you be better and RB19, whilst it ticked a lot of boxes, there are still areas that we can improve that we’ll be looking to carry into RB20.

“But that’s Formula 1, that’s competition, it’s all those marginal gains that you’re pursuing.”

Should Verstappen win his fourth World title in F1 2024, it would see him match Sebastian Vettel’s streak of four successive titles with Red Bull between 2010-13.

Read next: Exclusive: Christian Horner hints at off-season plans before 2024 Red Bull title fight