Sergio Perez delivers intriguing Max Verstappen claim after shock DNF in Australia

Jamie Woodhouse
Sergio Perez standing in front of Max Verstappen.

Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen.

Sergio Perez is convinced that even if Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen had not retired from the Australian Grand Prix, Ferrari would still have won.

Verstappen made it three pole positions from three at the start of F1 2024 in Australia, but despite securing the lead off the line, a rear right brake issue which he had felt from the get-go soon became terminal, forcing the winner of the last nine grands prix into a very early retirement.

Sergio Perez does not think Max Verstappen could have stopped Ferrari

Red Bull had started the season with back-to-back 1-2 finishes, but Ferrari took the opportunity to open their victory account as Carlos Sainz led home a Ferrari 1-2 of their own ahead of Charles Leclerc.

And while Verstappen had been the clear pacesetter so far in F1 2024, Perez does not believe his team-mate in a fully fit Red Bull RB20 could have even stopped Ferrari at Albert Park.

Asked by Sky F1 whether Ferrari would still have won even without Verstappen’s DNF, Perez replied: “Absolutely, yes.”

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Building further on his theory, Perez, who finished P5 and nearly a minute behind Sainz, said that managing the front tyres proved to be a major stumbling block on Grand Prix Sunday, as he claimed that McLaren were also a “step ahead”.

McLaren’s Lando Norris secured P3 to join the Ferrari drivers on the podium.

“We didn’t have the pace unfortunately,” Perez admitted.

“Early on we could see that Ferrari and McLaren were a step ahead of us. I think we just couldn’t get the balance in a window. There is some work to do for the coming races.

“It was a very unique tarmac and throughout the weekend we were not able to manage the best possible grip level.

“We didn’t have the pace throughout the weekend.

“We were struggling already on Friday and we never got on top of the management of tyres. I think we just have to understand and make sure we are able to improve.

“We already saw last year in a track like this, for example Vegas, Ferrari was a lot stronger than us, so we just couldn’t look after the front tyres.”

Interestingly, Red Bull senior advisor Helmut Marko had a different view to Perez on Red Bull’s pace versus Ferrari, arguing that the race outcome would have been “completely different” had Verstappen not been forced to retire.

“I spoke to Max and he said that despite the problems, he kept up with Sainz’s pace relatively easily,” Marko told Sky Germany.

“With Max in the race, the outcome would have been completely different.”

Verstappen retained his lead of the Drivers’ Championship despite that DNF, though the battle at the top is now looking a lot closer, with Leclerc only four points behind and Perez one point further back.

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