Intriguing driver v car question raised: Would Max Verstappen still beat Perez?

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez in conversation with Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen after Belgian Grand Prix qualifying. Spa, July 2023.

Sergio Perez in conversation with Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen after Belgian Grand Prix qualifying. Spa, July 2023.

Although Max Verstappen is “currently the best in the field”, former F1 driver Hans-Joachim Stuck wonders if he’d still have the better of Sergio Perez if the Dutchman was in a Mercedes or a Ferrari.

Formula 1 has long debated driver versus car, and which of the two counts the most when it comes to success.

Today it’s Red Bull who are on top of the Formula 1 standings, the team having already wrapped up the Constructors’ Championship and the Drivers’ title with Verstappen while Perez is second on the log.

‘Alonso in the Red Bull, Verstappen in the Ferrari’

But with less than half of his team-mate’s points and having only beaten him twice this season, one could argue that today it’s the combination of Red Bull and Verstappen that’s proving so successful, car and driver.

Accepting that Verstappen has the “right car”, former F1 racer Stuck wonders if the 25-year-old could still destroy Perez if the Mexican was in the RB19 and he was driving a Ferrari or Mercedes.

He told Eurosport.de: “For me, Verstappen is currently the best in the field – by far. I often watch slow motions and there is no one who implements his own abilities more consistently than Verstappen.

“Of course, he also has the right car. One of his big advantages is that he can adapt his car perfectly to his abilities on the track.

“If you put Verstappen in a Mercedes or Ferrari, it would be interesting to see if he could still beat Pérez.”

It brings to mind a huge driver change that Stuck wouldn’t mind seeing: “Alonso in the Red Bull, Verstappen in the Ferrari – that would actually be exciting! But such thoughts are the essence of sport.”

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That, though, is unlikely to happen given Verstappen is contracted to Red Bull through to the end of the 2028 season while at 42, Alonso is unlikely to still be on the Formula 1 grid in six years.

This year marks the first of Alonso’s two contracted seasons with Aston Martin but with Perez set to stay at Red Bull also for one more year, Stuck would like to see the Spaniard head to the World Champions.

“One can only hope that someone else will come to the Red Bull,” he mused. “I think it would be great if Alonso was put in the Red Bull. And the rumours are there. He denies it completely, but there may be a reason for that.

“Pérez is doing a great job and is clearly number two. This situation obviously helps Red Bull in that there is calm within the team. But if Red Bull gets a driver like Alonso on board, the team can improve itself a bit.

“At some point, the time will come when the competition will be closer again. Then it would be an advantage to have two really hot irons in the fire. In my opinion, Alonso in particular could achieve a lot at Red Bull.

“The way Alonso drives, the way he fights, is largely flawless and also brings the team forward, I would say that he would be very, very close to Verstappen. I am convinced of that. Closer than Pérez in any case, that’s no question for me.

“There are a handful of people who I trust to drive at Verstappen’s level – and Alonso is one hundred percent of them. I just think the guy is great. We know each other really well. He has the motivation, he enjoys it.

“In addition, he has the maturity to use his skills perfectly at the right moment. That’s really impressive.”

The 72-year-old does not believe Alonso’s age is a problem.

“If you don’t feel well, stop immediately! But of course, this is different for every driver. In the case of Fernando Alonso and Nico Hülkenberg, you can also see that age doesn’t stand in their way.

“I myself have learned that experience does not compensate – quite the opposite! Experience gives a driver a huge advantage. You know tracks, bumps, rain lines, you even react to certain noises. A young driver cannot have this experience.”

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