Lewis Hamilton’s ‘wingman’ warns Sergio Perez it’s ‘not going to be easy’ beating Max Verstappen

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen applauds Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez. Azerbaijan, April 2023.

Max Verstappen claps as Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez celebrates victory in Baku. Azerbaijan, April 2023.

Valtteri Bottas has warned Sergio Perez it is “not going to be easy” beating Max Verstappen to the World title, the Finn well aware of the massive task that faces the Mexican driver.

Racing for Mercedes from 2017 to 2021, Bottas went from Bottas 2.0 to Bottas 2.2.0 as every year he vowed this will be his season. And each year he came up short up against Mercedes’ number one driver Lewis Hamilton, only to be billed as a “sensational wingman” by team boss Toto Wolff.

This season Perez finds himself in a similar situation as he tries to shake off the wingman tag and fight for a title of his own.

On a par with team leader Verstappen in the early part of the championship, the two Red Bull drivers have claimed two wins apiece but it Verstappen who leads the standings by six points with Perez’s Australian GP disaster costing him dearly as it was the only time this season Red Bull missed out on the 1-2 with Perez down in fifth place after a pit lane start.

He, however, is adamant this season will be his, echoing words said by Bottas – several times – years ago.

The now Alfa Romeo driver has warned Perez, dubbed the ‘Mexican Minister of Defence’ for his holding up of Hamilton in Abu Dhabi in 2021, that it won’t be easy to get on top of Verstappen.

“I can kind of relate to him that he’s trying to find something new every year and trying to beat his team-mate,” he said as per Speedcafe.

“He’s had a pretty decent season so far, and time will show, but for sure, it’s not going to be easy.”

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Perez is convinced this year he has Red Bull’s support in his title quest, the driver saying in the build-up to the Miami Grand Prix that he believes Red Bull “will give me as much support as they do with Max”.

That, Bottas says, is important.

“You need to get everybody on board, to get the team to believe that you can win,” said the Finn.

“I’m sure he’s working on all the areas, and it is about momentum in the end. When you have a good run of good results, then the whole team is on board, and that’s boosts everything.

“It’s still early in the year, so he still has a great chance of beating Max, and I would imagine at some point, they [Red Bull] are going to decide who is it going to be – but it’s not yet.”

Bottas, however, concedes there may come a point in the season where Perez, if he is destroyed by Verstappen, will lose the team’s support.

“I feel like yes [he’ll have support] until a certain point of the season,” Bottas admitted.

“It’s just about how different teams work and what they decide, when they decide, points difference, whatever.

“But yes, they can support both drivers the same and I definitely felt like I had that. I had the opportunity every year.

“But then at some point, there was a decision, obviously as to who’s going to take it.”