Sergio Perez has dismissed claims that Max Verstappen is a bad loser, insisting he has never been anything other than magnanimous in defeat in their time as Red Bull team-mates.
Perez arrived at Red Bull in 2021 and played an pivotal role in Verstappen’s maiden World Championship triumph over Lewis Hamilton, memorably slowing down the Mercedes driver at the title decider in Abu Dhabi.
But the Mexican’s stature has also grown across his stint with the team with Perez winning two races in 2022, in Monaco and Singapore, as Verstappen stormed to his second successive crown.
Perez has made his best-ever start to a season in 2023, seeing off Verstappen to win in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, currently sitting 14 points behind Championship leader Verstappen with a 30-point gap back to third-placed Fernando Alonso.
The reigning Constructors’ Champions, meanwhile, hold a 122-point advantage over Aston Martin after five rounds having won every race so far.
With this year’s Championship almost certain to come down to a battle between the Red Bull drivers, expectations have grown in recent weeks that Perez may be able to provide a serious threat to his team-mate, winner of 28 of the last 49 races stretching back to the start of 2021.
But despite Verstappen’s status within the team, having been promoted to Red Bull at the age of 18 in 2016, Perez has revealed the 25-year-old is not as bad a loser as fans have been led to believe.
Appearing alongside Verstappen on the Pardon My Take podcast, he explained: “He’s a good loser, I’ll say.
“He has a fame of [a] bad loser.
“But honestly whenever I beat him he’s like, he’s really like, ‘Well done’.
“And it’s not very normal in Formula 1 to have that sort of team-mate.
“He really comes and [says], ‘Well done mate’ – and you can see that he feels it.
“I appreciate that.”
Tensions between Verstappen and Perez seemed to take a turn for the worse after the Monaco GP in 2022, where the World Champion could only manage third as his team-mate qualified ahead before winning the race.
In the days after the race Verstappen’s father, former F1 driver Jos, accused Red Bull of exerting “little influence” to help him move up the order.
When Verstappen later refused to switch positions with Perez in Brazil to aid his quest for P2 in the Drivers’ standings, it was strongly implied – but never confirmed – that it was a form of payback for Monaco, where the Mexican was said to have crashed intentionally in the closing seconds of qualifying in order to secure crucial track position, setting up his victory.
Following Perez’s victory in Jeddah in March, Verstappen claimed he was “not happy” despite recovering from 15th on the grid – having suffered a driveshaft failure in qualifying – to finish second and bank valuable points.
Verstappen cut a far more satisfied victory after finishing second to Perez in Baku earlier this month, describing his struggles in the race as “a very good day in terms of understanding the car and what I need from the car a bit more.”