Max Verstappen’s camp issue strong statement about potential Sergio Perez replacement

Oliver Harden
Red Bull drivers Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen pose on the podium after a one-two finish in Azerbaijan. Baku, April 2023.

Red Bull drivers Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen pose on the podium after a one-two finish in Azerbaijan. Baku, April 2023.

Max Verstappen’s manager Raymond Vermeulen has declared the reigning F1 World Champion would welcome the opportunity to test himself against another driver if Red Bull decide to drop Sergio Perez. 

Having started the 2023 season with victories in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, Perez has come under considerable pressure in recent weeks after a series of difficult weekends in Monaco, Spain and Canada.

The Mexican currently sits 69 points adrift of Verstappen ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, having failed to reach Q3 at half of the eight races this year despite driving the dominant RB19 car.

Despite having a contract until the end of next season, it has been suggested that Red Bull may be tempted to make a change for 2024 if Perez’s performances do not improve, even though the team are comfortably clear of second-placed Mercedes in the Constructors’ standings.

Verstappen appeared to mock Perez’s recent results after setting pole at the Canadian GP earlier this month, claiming things “would have looked very different for Red Bull” if he wasn’t around, adding: “I wouldn’t be happy with not making Q3 three times in a row.”

Speaking to Dutch publication Formule 1, Vermeulen sent a clear message to any driver picked to partner Verstappen going forward.

“Bring it on,” he said. “Everyone gets the same material. And everyone is free to beat Max, right?”

Vermeulen offered an insight into working for Verstappen, now regarded as one of the biggest stars in world sport having won 31 of the 52 races stretching back to the start of his maiden title-winning season in 2021.

PlanetF1.com recommends

Train like an F1 driver: An eye-opening experience into the insane fitness levels

Revealed: Why billion-dollar investor firms chose Alpine for huge investment

That success on track, he says, has dramatically increased the “internationalisation” of Verstappen’s personal brand.

He explained: “Making deals is fun. It is a gigantic flywheel that is now turning.

“Of course I don’t know where it ends, but I think there is still a whole world open to us. But in the end it’s all about Max’s performance on the track.

“Now he has this ‘boy next door’ imagine, but as soon as he wears a helmet he is a lion that tries to eat everyone. And I think that appeals to people.”

A number of F1 pundits – including On Track GP’s very own Richard Bradley [see bottom] – have proposed the idea that Verstappen must win with a different team such as Ferrari in order to cement his place among F1’s true greats including Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.

With Verstappen repeatedly insisting there is no guarantee that he will remain in F1 beyond the end of his current contract, Vermeulen sees no reason why his client would seek to walk away from F1’s dominant team.

“Why would Max make a switch now in this situation?” he asked. “We are not interested in that.

“It’s a small world, of course. Everyone and everything talks to each other and we have a commitment until 2028. And as you can see, Max is in the roll of his life, driving without pressure.”

Verstappen’s rise to prominence has propelled Vermeulen himself into the public sphere but despite interest from other potential clients he remains committed to working only with the Red Bull star, with whom he has a very close bond.

He said: “I am very clear about this. I will continue to work exclusively for Max.

“I don’t have time for other things either. I don’t have the energy for it. Max is like a family member to me, as he is a friend. I’ve known him since he was born. I have a very different kind of relationship with him.

“I could never muster the energy I have for Max for someone else.”