The topic of Red Bull favouring Max Verstappen to the detriment of his teammates has long been denied by all involved.
2023 has seen Sergio Perez flounder alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull, with the Mexican driver struggling for any sort of consistency in a year where Perez has admitted he’s needed external help to maintain a positive mindset.
Having lost all confidence in the car and his own ability in a tough run of races after the Miami Grand Prix, Perez now feels that he’s back firing on all cylinders as he aims to consolidate P2 in the Drivers’ Championship – albeit a long way behind title certainty Verstappen.
Sergio Perez taking on an ‘absolute animal’ in Max Verstappen
With 2023 arguably Perez’s weakest season alongside Verstappen, despite his strong start to the campaign, there has been plenty of speculation that Perez’s seat for 2024 could be in danger – rumours that have calmed down in recent weeks as the company line has remained unchanged.
But the pressure is on Perez to respond to convince management that he’s the right man to remain in the cockpit beyond the end of 2024 when his contract comes to a conclusion.
But, according to ESPN Latin America commentator Fernando Tornello, Perez is actually faring very well alongside the generational talent that is Verstappen.
“Max Verstappen is a driver who exceeds 10 points and Checo Perez is a driver who normally doesn’t go below 8 or 9 points which is very good for a driver,” Tornello told Mexican publication Esto.
“There have been champion drivers with fewer points than Checo Perez can score. Checo is against a beast in the team, beating Verstappen is almost a utopia, and Checo has beaten him a few races.”
Through the summer, Perez’s form difference to Verstappen was such that it led some to comment on the disparity – Mercedes’ Toto Wolff was a leading voice to question whether Red Bull developed the RB19 solely around Verstappen’s requirements.
But Tornello doubts there’s any truth to the hypothesis, echoing the response from Red Bull, Verstappen, and Perez himself.
“One driver likes it one way, the other the other way, and the team gives the car to the driver it believes will win the most races, which is Verstappen. So Checo is committed,” he said.
Helmut Marko comments an attempt to ‘motivate the driver’
Prior to the Singapore Grand Prix, Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko found himself in hot water as he stated some xenophobic comments on Red Bull-owned ServusTV in which he speculated that Perez’s nationality was partly to blame for his erratic form.
But Tornello reckons Marko’s comments should be taken with a pinch of salt, and that the 80-year-old Austrian is attempting to provoke his charges into action to prove him wrong.
“Take it with a smile, from what Marko says he likes it that way,” he said.
As a result, Tornello argued that Marko shouldn’t be viewed as being racist or xenophobic in his views.
“I think he does it to prod, to prick the drivers, so that they get more out of it, and with grit and effort they improve.
“I think that in Checo’s case what he has said is for that.
“But it is not with Checo – the issue is really with everyone, he does not speak ill of Verstappen because Verstappen does not give him reasons and he must have him as a spoiled child because, if Verstappen leaves the team, it starts to complicate them because he goes to a rival team on top so they have to keep him there.”