Pundits claim Sergio Perez is to blame for ‘worrying’ Max Verstappen era

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez in conversation with Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen after Belgian Grand Prix qualifying. Spa, July 2023.

Sergio Perez in conversation with Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen after Belgian Grand Prix qualifying. Spa, July 2023.

BBC pundit Harry Benjamin believes Max Verstappen’s dominance is “worrying” for F1, more so than Mercedes’ ever was, because today it’s “only car for Red Bull” that’s winning.

After the blip that was Singapore, Verstappen secured his 13th race win of this season in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix where he crossed the line 19s ahead of Lando Norris.

His 26 points meant Red Bull wrapped up the Constructors’ Championship title with six races to spare, Verstappen having scored 400 of the team’s 623 points.

Is the Red Bull era a worry for Formula 1?

His incredible form, which includes a record-breaking run of 10 wins from Miami to Italy, has divided public opinion with that split between praise and concern.

The BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast pundit Benjamin fits into the latter category.

“You can’t take anything away from what Red Bull have done, but it is worrying for the sport,” he said. “It is because nobody likes a runaway winner.

“We have had them in Formula 1, look at Mercedes. But this is different because it’s one car for Red Bull.

“Not to do any disservice to Sergio Perez but Max Verstappen is on another level compared to any other driver. They have the same car, he’s just able to deliver something else and Red Bull gives him those tools to do so.

“And nobody can come close. There isn’t the occasional winner of a Ferrari or Mercedes getting in there. Reliability also, just that car is bulletproof.”

However, his fellow pundit Sam Bird disagrees, saying Formula 1 can look back on many periods of dominance. He reckons the regulations encourage it.

“Name an era in Formula One where there wasn’t a dominant car. We can keep going back and keep going back.

“The way that the rules are in Formula One, whereby basically the manufacturers are free to design their own cars with their own aero and their own engine and their own gearbox within parameters, means that one team is just going to do a better job than the other teams.

“And that team will win far more races than other teams, that’s the way that it works.

“It’s not like other single-seater formulas where it’s a spec car with a spec engine and a spec tyre and you go racing and it’s really really close. F1 is designed so that one team will succeed more than others and that’s the formula that we’ve got.”

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But while Benjamin “completely agreed”, he reiterated that the difference today with Red Bull is that in the “last dominant era, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas was able to able to occasionally win a race. And the battle with [Nico] Rosberg was intense.

“Yeah there were only two cars in the fight but there were two cars in the fight.”

And therein lies the crux of the matter.

“We need Sergio to up his game,” said Bird. “At the beginning of the season we went ‘Wow, Sergio has come out of the blocks and won two out of the first four or five races’. Now that was close, that was great for Formula 1. Since then he hasn’t shown up.

Benjamin agreed. “And that’s the difference. I think that’s what outlines this as more dominant than other previous stints. It’s that it’s Max out there on his own. He’d already won the Constructors’ as himself, he didn’t need a team-mate.”

While Verstappen won Sunday’s Japanese GP, Perez imploded with two penalties, two new front wings, and even two retirements.

Read next: Japanese GP driver ratings: Night-and-day weekends at Red Bull in title-winning race