Max Verstappen says his team-mate Sergio Perez has been “on fire” recently in Red Bull’s quest to make it a double World Championship triumph.
The Dutchman has moved 19 points clear of Lewis Hamilton in the Drivers’ title race with four grands prix remaining. He hopes to cement that advantage at Interlagos, a circuit that is expected to suit the RB16B.
A significant part of that is down to the improvement shown by Perez who, apart from a victory in Azerbaijan after Verstappen had crashed due to a tyre blowout while leading, had been enduring an underwhelming first season with the team.
However, the Mexican has really got his act together since the turn of October in particular and turned in three consecutive third-place finishes, clearly much more comfortable driving the car.
Verstappen would undoubtedly have loved Perez to have got past Hamilton with his late challenge for P2 in his home race, but nevertheless he is recognising his increased contribution to the overall cause.
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“Checo has been on fire for the past few races,” said Verstappen in Red Bull’s preview of the Brazilian Grand Prix.
“It would mean a lot to the team to win the Constructors’ Championship, so to get those (40) points in Mexico was amazing. It was great to have Checo up there with me and that’s what we want.
“We are taking it race by race and we just need to keep pushing.”
Heading to Brazil, Verstappen is slightly concerned about the omens of this being the third and final sprint qualifying weekend of the season.
The previous two experiments of this format went alarmingly similar for the Red Bull driver – he won the sprint each time to start the race on pole position at both Silverstone and Monza, only to then crash out as a result of collisions with Hamilton that will live long in the memory.
“It’s difficult to say how competitive we will be,” said Verstappen. “In 2019 we won the race (in Brazil) but it was a close battle all the way through and I expect something very similar again this year.
“Let’s see what the weather forecast will be because that can impact the performance quite a bit.
“It’s also a sprint race this weekend. I tend to do well in the sprint but then get bad race results, so let’s try and turn it around.”
To answer Max’s query about the weather at Interlagos, there is a small chance of rain on both Friday and Saturday, with Sunday most likely to be dry.
Planet F1 verdict
Perez delivering at just the right time for Red Bull
Sergio Perez has helped Red Bull catch Mercedes by delivering at all the right moments.