‘Max Verstappen has Sebastian Vettel syndrome against Sergio Perez at Red Bull’

Oliver Harden
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.

Peter Windsor, the Formula 1 commentator, believes Max Verstappen is suffering from ‘Sebastian Vettel syndrome’ alongside Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez in 2023.

Verstappen heads to this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix with a six-point lead over Perez following the latter’s second victory of the season in Azerbaijan.

After inheriting the lead during a Safety Car intervention in Baku, Perez saw off Verstappen in a head-to-head fight in what has been hailed as the most impressive of his six career victories to date.

That came after Perez took the win in the sprint race, for which he outqualified Verstappen in F1’s new Sprint Shootout session.

Perez has long been noted for his gentle treatment of the tyres, with Windsor claiming the Mexican’s performance in the 90-degree corners of Baku’s first sector – where he could match Verstappen’s time while asking less of the tyres, thereby preserving his rubber over the remainder of the lap – was the key to his win.

With Perez building a reputation as a street circuit specialist – winning in Baku, Monaco, Jeddah and Singapore in Red Bull colours – Windsor has likened Verstappen’s situation to that of Vettel, who retired from F1 at the end of last season.

Vettel won four consecutive titles with Red Bull between 2010 and 2013, but fled to Ferrari at the end of a winless 2014 season after being convincingly outperformed by newly promoted team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

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Windsor feels the extent of Vettel’s success prevented him from being more introspective in the face of his defeat to Ricciardo and, following the warning sign of Perez’s victory in Monaco 12 months ago, sees similar signs in Verstappen.

Speaking via his YouTube channel, he said: “Max got beaten in Baku because of his inferior technique on traction corners when there are long straights afterwards to reward perfect traction.

“That’s how he got beaten, so that’s an area where he needs to improve as I’ve been saying since Monaco last year.

“I always said it was going to be interesting by the time we got to Baku to see if he was a different driver in that respect – and he hasn’t improved. I think there’s going to be a question about that.

“I think it’s the Sebastian Vettel syndrome.

“When the writing was on the wall at Red Bull that he wasn’t doing as good a job as Daniel Ricciardo, he just left and went to Ferrari and didn’t work on the areas where he needed to if he had really looked deeply and just assumed that going to Ferrari as a four-times World Champion because he could do no wrong would result in four more World Championships.

“And it didn’t happen.

“[It’s the] same way Fernando [Alonso] at McLaren in 2007 assumed that McLaren were favouring Lewis [Hamilton] because Lewis was better in a couple of areas out of the box – but it was because Lewis was actually better in a couple areas out of the box!

“I think it’s the same with Max.

“I think Max probably thinks now: ‘There’s no way I can be learning anything from Sergio Perez.’

“And if he wanted to, and he really got down to it, I’m sure he could improve.

“He’s got enough talent and enough ability to be self-critical to do that.

“But I think the way Formula 1 is now, it’s just like: ‘Wait for the next race, it will be different.’

“If he hasn’t changed between Monaco and Baku this year, it ain’t gonna change before Monaco this year, is it? Or Singapore probably.”