Max Verstappen v Sergio Perez: ‘We will see the difference away from street circuits’

Oliver Harden
Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, neither happy. Bahrain March 2023

Red Bull team-mates Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, neither happy. Bahrain March 2023

Dutch racing driver Tim Coronel is expecting Max Verstappen’s natural pace advantage over Sergio Perez to become clear when the F1 2023 calendar moves away from street circuits.

Perez has built a reputation as a street circuit specialist over recent years, having taken four of his five career victories at city-based races.

After setting pole position at the fearsome Jeddah and Baku circuits in 2022, the Mexican went on to win on the streets of Monaco and Singapore – but finished a distant third, 149 points adrift of Red Bull team-mate Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship.

A similar theme has emerged in 2023 with Perez talking up his title chances after converting pole to victory in Saudi Arabia, where a driveshaft issue saw Verstappen fall in Q2.

That win was sandwiched between a season opener in Bahrain in which he finished 12 seconds behind the dominant Verstappen and a weekend to forget in Australia, where Perez beached his car in the gravel before setting a time in Q1.

Coronel was surprised that Perez did not take advantage of a chaotic race to recover to the podium in Melbourne.

And with five of the first seven races held on street tracks, he suspects Verstappen’s greater versatility to be felt as the season develops.

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He told the Dutch edition of GPFans: “I expected Perez on the podium. He really should have done that. Especially with those red flag situations, because then you get more chances to close that gap, because you are much closer to someone else.

“Perez is just a different driver than Max.

“He can keep up on street circuits, but as soon as we go on the regular circuits, we will really see the difference again. Then Max is faster.

“Now Perez is still a bit of a threat to the Championship. Everyone is starting to find their place. But who’s where at the end?

“But let’s face it, if you look at raw speed, it’s always Max.”

Having acted as the perfect wingman for Verstappen during his maiden title-winning campaign in 2021, Perez has made attempts to avoid being cast in a support role over the last 12 months stretching back to his unhappiness with being instructed to move over for his team-mate at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Asked if Perez does feel disadvantaged compared to Verstappen, Coronel said: “As Perez, I can imagine that you feel this and that you think about it, because you are in your own bubble and not in the bubble of the team.

“But [for] speed Perez just doesn’t quite have what Max has and he doesn’t see that.

“Then you create this situation and then maybe you feel it.”