Helmut Marko leaps to defence of ‘top driver’ Sergio Perez in ‘badmouthed’ claim

Thomas Maher
Sergio Perez in the paddock at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez has got some extra support from Red Bull's Helmut Marko.

Helmut Marko believes Sergio Perez would be spoken about in different terms if it wasn’t for his teammate’s abilities.

The Mexican driver finished as runner-up in this year’s World Championship, one of only two drivers to beat Max Verstappen to a race win this year as he claimed victories in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan.

However, his season came off the rails through the middle part of the year as mistakes and a lack of pace saw him in danger of losing out on second place in the closing stages, before a more assured finish gave him the position.

Helmut Marko: Sergio Perez’s misfortune is having Max Verstappen as teammate

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko, who drew criticism himself during the year for some controversial nationality-based comments about Perez’s performance levels, was more sanguine about his driver’s year as he spoke following the team securing a 1-2 in the Drivers’ Championship.

Speaking with Austrian publication OE24, Marko looked back over the year at the incredible levels of dominance shown by Red Bull, and said Perez would be viewed differently without a generational talent in the other RB19.

Marko said he believes it a shame that Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz, who died in late 2022, was not around to see the incredible performances of Red Bull and Verstappen.

“There were many wonderful victories and also world championship titles,” Marko said.

“But it’s a shame that he can no longer experience this performance from the team and especially from Max. Something like this year is unique. Who knows if that will be possible again?

“But the crucial point for this dominance, and more and more people are slowly realizing this, is the Max Verstappen factor.

“Sergio Perez has been talked down to, but he is a top driver. He just has the misfortune of having a once-in-a-century talent as a team-mate.”

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There was plenty of speculation about Perez’s immediate future with Red Bull, given the gap between himself and Verstappen in what proved to be the sport’s most dominant car ever, with question marks over whether the Mexican would even see his final contracted year with the team in 2024.

Former Red Bull driver turned pundit David Coulthard weighed in on the topic on the Formula For Success podcast, saying Perez may need to come to terms with his level compared to Verstappen if he wishes to continue with the Milton Keynes-based squad.

“The gap between Checo and Max on average was just over three-tenths, so Checo [Perez] wasn’t as far away from his team-mate as some, but unfortunately for him of course, when Max was winning, and he’s not finishing second, it really puts a very difficult spotlight on him,” said Coulthard.

“He survived it, but he’s definitely going to, in my opinion, have to do some serious work over the winter to fully understand or accept the differences between himself and Max.

“I think now they [his management] probably need to take a slightly different view, which is he is the best partner to a Max, a phenomenon, and then you could knuckle down in the way that Eddie Irvine did with [Michael] Schumacher or Gerhard Berger did with Ayrton Senna, two examples of drivers who just accepted they weren’t as quick as their team-mates.

“And that allowed them actually to get some really good stability within the team and relax into doing some great performances and winning grands prix.”

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