Papa Perez reignited favouritism debate with claim Red Bull ‘built for Max to be a champion’

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen chats with Sergio Perez in Jeddah. March 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen chats with Sergio Perez.

Sergio Perez’s father, Antonio Pérez Gariba, has reignited the favouritism debate as he claims the RB19 is “set” for Max Verstappen with Red Bull “built” for him to be champion.

Although Perez came out of the blocks swinging this season, the Mexican driver winning two of the first four races to sit a mere six points behind Verstappen after Azerbaijan, what happened next is the stuff of sporting horror stories.

Losing the Miami Grand Prix to the Dutchman despite starting on pole position to Verstappen’s P9, Perez’s form took a hit and he didn’t even once make it into Q3 in the next five race weekends.

Sergio Perez was ‘hired for second place’

Only once recovering from a lowly grid slot to feature on the podium, his title dreams were in tatters by the time he was back into the top ten in qualifying at the British Grand Prix. But the impetus was all Verstappen’s and his 10-race winning streak completely destroyed Perez’s World Champion dream.

With 400 points to his team-mates 223, Verstappen has put in a nearly flawless season while Perez seems to be slump number two with crashes and penalties in Singapore and again in Japan.

That, his father at least says, is partially because the RB19 is “set” to suit Verstappen’s driving style and not Perez’s.

“Checo continues to battle. The car is set for Max because he drives with all the grip at the front and Checo has done it all the time with the grip at the back,” he told ESTO after Japan.

But that he accepts today is how it should be with Red Bull “built” for Verstappen while Perez’s job is to bring home “second place”.

“The position Checo is in is the one he was hired for, second place,” he said. “There is only one champion and you have to understand that. He has to work for it and respect it.

“All this was built for Max to be a champion and you have to understand and respect it.

“If he moved to another team he could be fourth or sixth.”

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From Mexican F1 World Champ to the job he ‘was hired for’…

Papa Perez’s comments today are in sharp contrast to those he made in January when he said his son was in Formula 1 to win the title for Mexican.

Back then he declared: “I tell you that the best of Checo Perez, we have not seen it yet, he has much more to give and surely with the passage of time Mexico will have an F1 champion in the hands of Checo Perez.”

Months later he claimed Perez was on a par with Verstappen and that his son’s rivalry with Verstappen “is the new edition of Senna and Prost at McLaren. We have two tigers in the same cage. They think alike, they act alike.”

But while Verstappen’s season has gone from strength to strength, Perez is once again struggling to pull off a clean weekend after needing two front wing replacements before retiring from the Japanese Grand Prix.

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