Gerhard Berger disputes Papa Perez’s ‘Ayrton Senna v Alain Prost’ claims

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen chats with Sergio Perez in Jeddah. March 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen chats with Sergio Perez.

Former F1 driver Gerhard Berger has refuted Sergio Perez’s father’s claims that Perez versus Max Verstappen is the new Ayrton Senna versus Alain Prost as he feels Verstappen is in a league of his own.

Speaking after the Miami Grand Prix about his son’s rivalry with his Red Bull team-mate, the two separated by 14 points in the Dutchman’s favour with three wins to two, Antonio Perez told Por Esto that it reminds him of the intense fight between Senna and Prost when they were team-mates at McLaren.

“For me, this is the new edition of Senna and Prost at McLaren,” Papa Perez declared. “We have two tigers in the same cage. They think alike, they act alike.”

But with Verstappen surging 39 points clear of his team-mate after Perez suffered an error-strewn Monaco Grand Prix while Verstappen took the win, Berger doesn’t see it like that.

“I recently read that Verstappen and Perez is the repeat of Senna against Prost,” the former F1 driver told Kronen Zeitung.

“Yes, Verstappen is in this league and yes Perez is doing his best to stay close to Max. But nevertheless, to me, it looks like Verstappen goes it alone.”

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In fact the Austrian reckons Verstappen’s biggest competition, or at the least the one worth talking about, is Fernando Alonso.

The double World Champion has five podiums in six races, more than any other driver barring Verstappen, and has twice featured on the front row of the grid.

Drawing parallels with his own 1988 season, the year the Ferrari driver was second best to the McLaren pairing of Senna and Prost, Berger said: “Somehow the 1988 season also reminds me a bit of this year. These are similar circumstances.

“I played the same role then as Fernando Alonso does today. I was in the waiting position, often at the front. And if something happened…”

As yet the biggest that something has been for Alonso is the P2 he achieved in Monaco where he made the most of Perez’s absence at the front of the grid to be Verstappen’s closest challenger.

Accepting that he probably won’t win a race without a double failure for Red Bull, Berger warned: “One shouldn’t forget that there are many more races than there used to be.

“So it’s hard to believe that all races are run without incidents or technical problems. But purely in terms of performance, it is certainly possible.”

The Austrian, however, reckons when all is said and done with Verstappen’s career, whether that be at the end of the 2028 season or after, the Dutchman will have surpassed many of F1 records.

That includes Lewis Hamilton’s most wins, 103, of which Verstappen is at 39 and World titles, the record of seven with Verstappen on track for number three.

“I have confidence in Max that he can break all the existing records in Formula 1, including Hamilton’s 103 wins. He says today that it’s not important to him, but that will change in the future,” said Berger.

Verstappen already broke one record this past weekend in Monaco, the most wins for a Red Bull driver.

With his 39th, he surpassed four-time Sebastian Vettel’s 38.

“If you have a good car for a while, you can break these kinds of numbers,” said the Dutchman. “But yeah, it’s great.

“I mean, I would have never thought that I would be in this position in my career. When I grew up, I wanted to be a Formula 1 driver and winning these races is amazing. It’s better than I could have ever imagined, for sure.”