DC: ‘Figures speak for themselves’ in Max Verstappen-Sergio Perez battle

Jamie Woodhouse
Sergio Perez congratulates and thanks Max Verstappen. Abu Dhabi November 2022

Sergio Perez congratulates and thanks his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen. Abu Dhabi November 2022

Ex-Red Bull driver David Coulthard says it was Max Verstappen maximising the RB18, the 2022 statistics proving all was not down to the car.

Following on from a 2021 campaign which saw Verstappen snatch the title from Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the season, thus winning his first World Championship, 2022 was a far more dominant campaign.

Of the 22 grands prix contested, Red Bull took the chequered flag 17 times, 15 of those victories going to Verstappen, a record tally for a single season.

But weighing in on the debate of whether car or driver must take most of the plaudits, Coulthard told Motorsport.com that Verstappen must be applauded for squeezing all of the available performance from the RB18.

With Sergio Perez’s father having reportedly said that his son is the one who wins “the really difficult races”, referencing his 2022 victories in Monaco and Singapore, Coulthard said it was quite clear in the stats which driver was operating at the higher level.

“Those figures in my view already speak for themselves,” said Coulthard of Verstappen’s 15 victories. “Max has performed at a particularly high level this whole year. He has actually maximised the potential of the Red Bull car.

“It’s definitely not just down to the car. You can see that very well in the comparison between Max and Checo. Just look at what Checo has done this year and what Max has shown. There is quite a difference in that, whether people like Max or not. But there is nothing to detract from his performance and speed.

“Winning the title in 2021 has, in my opinion, made Max a bit stronger again.”

Sergio Perez cannot afford poor 2023 alongside Max Verstappen

Early in the 2022 campaign, Perez was actually operating at an impressive level compared to Verstappen, in particular over one lap as he took pole in Saudi Arabia.

But as Red Bull began to shed weight from the RB18 and Verstappen’s title surge took shape, Perez was largely left operating as the second driver.

The Mexican racer is contracted to Red Bull until the end of 2024, but this is a team well known for making driver changes if the performances are not there, and the return of Daniel Ricciardo complicates matters.

Set to spend 2023 as Red Bull’s third driver, attending selected races, Ricciardo will use his year out of the sport to decide just how badly he wants to be on that 2024 grid. If he decides a return is what he craves and starts having those talks with Red Bull, then Perez needs to make sure his performances are making him undroppable.

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