‘Max Verstappen has now clearly shown Sergio Perez where the frog has the curls’

Michelle Foster
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen at the Miami Grand Prix. Miami, May 2023.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen at the Miami Grand Prix. Miami, May 2023.

Taught a harsh lesson by Max Verstappen as he raced from ninth to first in Miami, Austrian racing driver Phillip Eng has warned Sergio Perez that sort of performance can “break a team-mate”.

Verstappen put on a masterclass around the Miami Autodrome on Sunday as the reigning World Champion recovered from a P9 on the grid to run second behind pole-sitter Perez by lap 16.

As the pit stops played out, Verstappen was again second to Perez on lap 45 as he exited the pits. But less than a second behind the Mexican driver, he made short work of passing him to take the lead and the race win.

He threw in a fastest lap to extend his advantage over his team-mate to 14 points in the Drivers’ standings with Perez conceding Verstappen “deserved the victory because he was the fastest car out there”.

Perez is adamant the title fight is far from over but Eng reckons Verstappen dealt Perez’s hopes a blow as he gave him a demonstration of his class.

“From Perez’s point of view it was not optimal,” Speedweek quotes the 33-year-old as having told ‘Sport & Talk from Hangar’.

“I also had a colleague in DTM who won the championship, Sheldon van der Linde showed me where the frog has the curls. It’s not nice there.

“Perez has shown that he is fast. He showed in Baku that he is a force to be reckoned with. But Verstappen has now clearly shown him where the frog has the curls.”

Asked whether Perez was too nice as a driver, Eng replied: “I can say he’s not nice – I mean, when the visor closes.”

But, he added: “I think Max drives flawlessly. What he delivers is very difficult to top. It can break a team-mate.”

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He reckons Verstappen showed Perez who’s “master of the house” as he bounced back from his Baku disappointment where he finished runner-up to his team-mate having lost the lead in the timing of a Safety Car.

“I think the thing with Baku had Max very foxed that Perez drove the whole race in front of him,” he added. “He didn’t have a chance to get past or get close.

“That’s why he showed in Miami who’s the master of the house.”

The former F2 driver had only praise for Verstappen, especially after he “callously” overtook Kevin Magnussen and Charles Leclerc in one corner.

“Max drove an amazing race,” he added. “It was not only a demonstration by Red Bull Racing, but also by Max.

“If you looked at the strategy – on the hard tyre at the beginning – you would never have guessed that it would be such a show of force. The driver definitely made the difference.

“He read the traffic perfectly. You can see what he’s made of. Kevin Magnussen and Charles Leclerc aren’t nose picking either, they know exactly what they’re doing.

“The fact that he passed by so callously shows what calibre he is. What Max showed not only impressed me as a fan, but also as a racing driver colleague in the broadest sense.”

Such is Verstappen’s prowess on track, Eng reckons the title race is in his hands alone.

“In the end, it will come down to Max Verstappen,” he concluded. “He can call up his performance at any time. He’s in the fastest car. The World title gives him an extra boost. A race like that in Miami is great for an athlete’s self-confidence – that can only help.

“As much as I ‘d like to wish Perez, it’s going to be difficult for him.”