Christian Horner has highlighted the job of being Max Verstappen’s team-mate as the toughest in Formula 1, believing Sergio Perez has “actually done very well” in the role so far.
The Red Bull team principal added his belief that no driver on the grid currently would be able to live with Verstappen at his current form, having won each of the last eight races and opened up a huge 125-point lead at the top of the Drivers’ Championship.
Perez has often struggled to keep pace with Verstappen by comparison, having led in the early stages in Belgium before being overhauled by the Dutchman and finishing 22 seconds behind his team-mate come the chequered flag, in the last race before the F1 summer break.
Christian Horner: Driving same car as Max Verstappen ‘toughest job in F1’
Perez had won two of the opening four races of the 2023 season and held aspirations of challenging Verstappen for the World Championship early on, before his team-mate surged clear in the standings as the sister Red Bull faltered, missing out on Q3 at five races in a row as the points gap grew.
That brought with it extra scrutiny over Perez, but Horner was quick to state that going up against the two-time World Champion in equal machinery is an unenviable task.
“I mean, that’s probably the toughest job in Formula 1 is to be Max Verstappen’s team-mate, because the level that he’s operating at, I don’t think there’s a driver in Formula 1 that would be able to take him on in this car,” Horner told ESPN.
“I think that’s a tough gig for anybody, you’ve got to be mentally very, very resilient to deal and cope with that.”
While Perez has come back to form with two podiums prior to the summer break, Horner believes that seeing Verstappen’s data first hand in debriefs could play on some people’s minds.
Not only that, the added pressure of the media is another element in which there will always be scrutiny, particularly when the driver of the other Red Bull is performing at such a high level.
The team principal praised Perez for the job he has done alongside Verstappen since joining the team in 2021, believing he has shown “great mental resilience” to compete.
“Look, it’s a very, very tough seat and I think you’ve almost got to switch off to what he’s doing and just drive to the best of your ability and see where see where it takes you,” he said.
“Being Max’s team-mate is never going to be an easy gig, and I think Checo’s actually done very well the last two-and-a-half years to achieve and do what he’s done.
“That takes great mental resilience because, not only has he got that data that he’s staring down the barrel at, he’s got you guys [media] to deal with, giving him grief every weekend saying, you know, ‘why aren’t you at your team-mate’s level?’ Well, nobody’s at his team-mate’s level.
“He’s still second in the World Championship, 40 points ahead of third place having won two Grands Prix, and finished second in at least another four of them.
“So he in his turn has had a decent season, but anything compared to Max is secondary.”