Christian Horner reveals what separates Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen

Jamie Woodhouse
Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez walk and share a joke at the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix.

Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez share a joke.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner lauded Max Verstappen as an all-time Formula 1 great, branding his ability to extract the maximum from his machinery “unparalleled”, as Sergio Perez is finding out. 

Verstappen has now firmly established himself at the pinnacle of Formula 1, the Red Bull driver having won 13 of the 16 grands prix so far in F1 2023 as he storms towards a third World Championship title in as many seasons.

The Dutchman has been re-writing the Formula 1 record books once more in F1 2023, establishing a new longest-ever winning streak with 10 victories on the trot between the Miami and Italian GPs.

Christian Horner hails Max Verstappen as F1 great

Red Bull team principal Horner has overseen Verstappen’s rise to glory since joining the main team in 2016, and feels they have a driver who has now, in his mid 20s, already confirmed himself as one of the greatest Formula 1 has ever seen.

“He’s operating at an insanely high level and with the benefit of experience now,” Horner told ESPN.

“He’s always had raw speed and great natural talent, but the capacity he has in the car, to be following the race, to be the thinking about aspects way beyond the normal sphere, is hugely, hugely impressive.

“And I think that he’s just taken another step again this year. The last couple of years, he’s been out of this world and I think you’ve got to start to consider Max now as one of the all-time greats. What he’s done in the space of time he’s done it, is just massively, massively impressive.

“It’s a privilege to work with him and see this driver that’s just going to achieve these unbelievable things. And some of the things he does that just take us by surprise, on a continual basis, whether it’s in mixed conditions, wet conditions, dry conditions, his ability to extract the maximum from the car is unparalleled.”

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Verstappen has established a reputation as the team-mate killer at Red Bull, Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon having come and gone, while Perez now is struggling to contend with the performance level of Verstappen, having seen his targeted F1 2023 title challenge swiftly fall apart.

Verstappen was almost eight-tenths faster than Perez come the end of qualifying last time out in Japan, the pace gap between the pair having grown throughout the campaign, and Horner believes Verstappen simply has an instant read for the car and conditions, plus the confidence in himself, which a team-mate cannot match.

“I think he’s just got this feel for the car, for the limits of grip, he’s got such a confidence in himself and his own ability,” Horner explained when asked what Verstappen has over his team-mates.

“His ability to get there so quickly, you look at his laps, the first time you turn up at a grand prix or a new circuit, his first lap of the day will often be two, three seconds quicker than anybody else. And you see a little bit of rain, boom, suddenly that gap goes like that.

“He has tremendous natural feel, and the ability to understand what the car needs from his input to get the most out of it. And it’s fascinating to see because he just adapts so quickly to a situation or condition with a car.”

With Verstappen a resounding 177 points up the road, Perez’s focus has now turned to defending his P2 spot in the Drivers’ Championship, with Lewis Hamilton only 33 points behind.

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