Max Verstappen facing ‘all guns blazing’ approach as Sergio Perez fights for Red Bull future

Thomas Maher
Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen at the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen celebrate another double podium

Sergio Perez is fighting to retain his seat at Red Bull next season, and Bernie Collins believes he’s adopting an “all guns blazing” approach.

The Mexican driver’s contract with the Milton Keynes-based team comes to an end at the conclusion of this season and, after a strong start to the year, his odds of retaining his seat after a difficult 2023 have improved.

Sergio Perez striking a ‘really difficult balance’

Former F1 engineer turned broadcaster Bernie Collins, who worked closely alongside Perez at Force India and Racing Point, weighed in on Perez’s start to the year, in which he’s adopted a calmer, less aggressive approach to his racing.

Last season, despite the performance of the RB19 vastly eclipsing everyone else’s cars, Perez struggled for podium finishes and, in particular, with strong qualifying performances.

With aggressive driving not yielding rewards for Perez, Collins said he’s dancing the fine line between aggression and calm – something he needs to do correctly to impress Red Bull for a new contract.

Speaking on the Fast and Curious podcast, Collins said: “I did an interview with [Perez] in Holland actually last year, and I sort of said, ‘If you focused on just finishing second, would you finish second more consistently than any of the focus on being first?’

“He didn’t really seem to take that on board so much. I think that they’re just so driven, you’ve seen some instances of it, where he goes for… Mexico was the best example.

“He went for the position on Lap 1, and it really didn’t pay off, right? But, if he hadn’t gone for that, are Red Bull saying, ‘Oh, he’s not aggressive enough’?

“Actually, the only people he needs to impress to keep his job are Red Bull. So he needs to show that he’s got that fight in him, and he’s not going to just sit back and take [it].

“It’s [a] really difficult [balance].”

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Bernie Collins: Sergio Perez is thinking ‘all guns blazing’

While Perez has had a calmer start to the year, and has secured second place in three of the four races so far, Collins reckons he hasn’t backed off in any shape or form – suggesting that F1 drivers aren’t able to be in any other mode other than maximum attack.

With Perez rising to the challenge of competing more equally alongside Verstappen, the Mexican could represent a thorn in the side for the Dutch driver later in the championship.

“He’s now the longest-standing team-mate of Max Verstappen,” she said.

“Everyone else has been dispensed way ahead of this.

“So I think he’s just thinking, ‘I just need to [go] all guns blazing and not worry so much about it’.

“I almost wonder if the moment that they start to cut that back, can they perform on anything near the same level?

“Like, the moment they start to worry about not crashing the car or whatever, do they lose too much?

“There were times last year when performance wasn’t good enough in qualifying.”

Having first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to work with Perez, Collins spoke of the “massive self-belief” she witnessed.

“He’s really driven. He’s really, really driven,” she said.

“All of them really want to achieve a lot and they’re all driven by beating their team-mate by getting the points and trying to prove themselves.

“Checo [Perez] spent a lot of time at Force India or Racing Point trying to prove that he was good enough to get to that top team. They all have this massive self-belief that any of the rest of us just don’t have.”

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