Two-time F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen doubts Sergio Perez can mount a realistic challenge against Max Verstappen for the title, or team leadership.
Perez is currently Verstappen’s closest challenger in the Drivers’ Championship, trailing his team-mate by 46 points after losing momentum last time out in Canada. While Verstappen stormed to victory, Perez retired early on due to a gearbox issue on his RB18.
Perez has performed much closer to Verstappen’s level so far in 2022, claiming an impressive pole position in Saudi Arabia and leading convincingly until an ill-timed Safety Car ruined his race.
The Mexican got his revenge in Monaco last month, winning on the streets of Monte Carlo ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, igniting his title bid in the process.
But two-time World Champion Hakkinen doubts that Perez will be able to topple Verstappen after the Dutch driver rallied his team due to early reliability woes with their new car.
“In the beginning of the season, Ferrari seemed to be a little ahead of Red Bull,” he said, in a video for Unibet.
“Red Bull couldn’t reach their maximum. They had some technical problems at first.
“But Verstappen managed to keep a cool head, even though some of his radio messages were pretty harsh. He didn’t necessarily choose his words carefully. He just blurted out the urge for the team to fix the issues. But Max has kept his cool. He trusts the car and the team. They’ve found consistency in their results. He’s done a really great job like before. He’s super talented and has done a good job.”
But, unlike 2021, Hakkinen believes the situation where Verstappen is the undisputed number one at the team is no longer the case.
“I don’t think Max is the clear number one driver,” he commented.
“Earlier, it used to be like that. Max has managed to get the maximum out of his car, even if the balance wasn’t perfect.
“Now that the rules have changed, Perez, with the help of the new regulations, has a car that suits his driving style and he can bring good results.
“That’s why I believe that Max being the number one driver is no longer as straightforward. It’s not as clear anymore.”
Despite this, Hakkinen backed Verstappen to be the more consistent of the duo over the course of the season, netting him team supremacy.
“When things get tough, Max will do a better job,” he said.
“Internally, the team sees that Max is the number one. But, from the outside, it’s no longer as straightforward.
“I don’t think he can [challenge Verstappen]. Perez is a driver who can bring good results. The new car suits him better, as it’s heavier and bigger. The rear is much calmer under braking and he can bring it through the corners nicely.
“Max, on the other hand, is so talented but, ultimately, I think Perez’s performance is inconsistent. In the long run, inconsistency won’t make you a champion. But Perez will still challenge Verstappen for race victories. But he has to do his maximum in every race, and he doesn’t do that.”