‘This is not what Red Bull signed Sergio Perez for as Max Verstappen’s team-mate’

Oliver Harden
Max Verstappen speaks with Red Bull F1 team-mate Sergio Perez. Bahrain, March 2023.

Max Verstappen speaking with Sergio Perez.

Formula 1 pundit Peter Windsor has criticised Sergio Perez for his “confused” and “foolhardy” reaction to his victory at last month’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

On a weekend where the prospects of Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen were hindered by a driveshaft failure in qualifying, Perez took his fifth career victory from pole position at the Jeddah circuit.

Perez arrived at the following round in Australia talking up his title chances, but failed to even set a time in qualifying after beaching his car in the gravel at Turn 3.

The Mexican pointed to an issue with his RB19 after struggling throughout the final practice session at Albert Park, but Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko later confirmed there was nothing wrong with the car.

Perez recovered to fifth in the race as Verstappen claimed his second victory in three, extending his lead in the Driver’s Championship to 15 points.

Windsor, the former Williams and Ferrari team manager, believes that Perez got too carried away and had ideas above his station after his win in Saudi Arabia.

Speaking via his YouTube channel, he said: “I’m absolutely shocked [by] Checo’s reaction to what happened in Saudi Arabia, where he won the grand prix. ”

“I’m absolutely shocked that after that race he started saying, ‘I’m in the running for the World Championship, I need to get the same treatment as Max’.

“I’m still even more shocked that he’s thrashing out at the team now because of what happened in qualifying, and indeed in FP3, in Melbourne – dry track, no problem at all with the car actually.

“I think Red Bull are surprised by that because they imagined he would be just this guy who is very, very quick, very polished in a lot of areas, not as quick as Max overall obviously, who’d be quite happy to be in the second-best car in Formula 1 at this stage of his career and would just keep his mouth shut and get on with it.

“But he’s not doing that oddly.

“It seems he’s got a case of the Rubens Barrichellos or the Felipe Massas – or the Eddie Irvines for that matter – when they were at Ferrari: ‘Life can be better if I was number one.’

“Of course, that’s a load of old rubbish and that’s really disappointing to see.

“But hopefully he’ll get through that and I suspect he will.”

When it was put to Windsor by a viewer that Perez is merely just another racing driver who wants to win, he replied: “Yeah, but that’s a different thing.

“If the big storm at Red Bull was about Checo not letting Max past in the last three laps of a race in which Max could’ve won a World Championship, and by not doing so it enabled Checo to still be in the World Championship [with] four races to go, I would agree.

“But we’re not talking about that.

“We’re talking about a guy that went off five times on Saturday [in Melbourne] when he couldn’t get any tyre temperature, so it’s not like, ‘there’s something wrong with my car, therefore I’m a racer’.

“That’s not the logical sequence of events there. This is a different thing.

“This is: ‘I’ve got something I need to be doing with my brake pedal modulation that I’m not doing but Max is, and I need to keep quiet about this because I haven’t done a very good job’.

“It’s more that, so I don’t think you can say he’s a racer just because he’s saying, ‘I want the same car as Max’.

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Windsor recently identified Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg as an ideal team-mate for Verstappen and claimed the German, as well as Red Bull reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo, would have handled the media in a smarter fashion in the aftermath of the Saudi Arabian GP.

He explained: “If you’re making mistakes and the other guy’s beating you, the logical thing is to keep quiet. Why would you not want to keep quiet?

“I think after Saudi Arabia [and] before Melbourne I don’t think Hulkenberg, in the situation Perez is in, would have said, ‘all bets are off now, I’ve got just as much chance to win the World Championship as Max Verstappen’.

“I don’t think Nico would do that. I don’t think Daniel would have said that.

“I don’t think many people would have said that actually, to be honest. It was a rather foolhardy thing for Perez to say.

“What he should have said was, ‘so pleased to have won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, I love this car, brilliant team, we’ve got a few races ahead but I just can’t wait to drive this car at Monaco’ – just to get Monaco in Max’s head again.

“That’s what I would have done if I was managing Perez.

“I would have done that, not to wind up Max, but just to get Max thinking about, ‘Perez is not slow around Monaco, that is for sure’.

“Just little things like that. Be a bit more subtle about it.

“Don’t just say, ‘I deserve to win the World Championship’.

“It’s a bit over the top, isn’t it?”

Windsor is convinced that Red Bull would have been very clear about Perez’s remit when he first joined the team for the 2021 season, blaming the desire to view the 33-year-old as a threat to Verstappen as a result of the modern media landscape.

He added: “I think [Red Bull] would have said always, ‘come join the team, Max will have priority all the time but if you are in a position to win and it’s not affecting Max’s [ability] to win a race or a Championship we will be 100 per cent behind you.

“‘But if Max is in the running for either the win or the Championship, you will always race for the team and you will follow instructions. Sometimes we may say you’re free to race Max because that may be what we think is appropriate at the time. We’re not going to be specific about anything in advance but you will respond to team orders in every situation’.

“I’m almost certain that’s what they would have said and I don’t think anything would have changed after Saudi Arabia because they would have thought: ‘Wow, Max Verstappen, with that issue he had in qualifying, still finished second. Unbelievable drive. Great drive by Max, brilliant to have Checo to take over the reins with Max in trouble, now let’s move on please’.

“I don’t think they would have thought now Checo’s going to be fighting for the Championship.

“It’s the same thing that happened when he won Monaco last year: ‘Can Checo can take the Championship to Max?’

“It’s because everything is kind of short-term news, social media, instant soundbite stuff and nobody taking the medium/long-term view.

“The guy that you employ for the other car has to be able to take up the slack if Max Verstappen has a problem, which is exactly what Checo did. He did the job perfectly.

“But it doesn’t mean to say anything more than that. He took up the slack when Max had a problem.

“It’s not a question of ‘Max is slow and Checo’s quick’ that Checo has to slow down and let Max win the race of pass him. They will take everything on its own merit given every situation.

“And if some race comes up where Max has a race like Charles Leclerc’s, can’t get the car to work at all and qualifies badly, and Checo’s on the front row and is leading and Max eventually gets up to P2, 20 seconds behind Checo with three laps to go, I can’t imagine any way in the world Red Bull will tell Checo to slow down and give the win to Max.

“I don’t think they would do that, but what they wouldn’t want is Checo winding up the media to say, ‘I’m getting inferior equipment, they’re not looking after me the way they look after Max, I deserve this, I deserve that’.

“That’s [not] what they signed Checo Perez to do.

“To me, it’s all pretty simple, clear stuff.

“But a lot of people, obviously Perez too, seem to get the whole thing a bit confused.”