Sergio Perez concedes it’s not easy ‘surviving’ as Max Verstappen’s team-mate

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez smiling with Max Verstappen in the press conference. Azerbaijan April 2023

Sergio Perez smiling with his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen in the press conference. Azerbaijan April 2023

Racing Max Verstappen for the 2023 Drivers’ title, Sergio Perez believes a combination of mental strength and being open to working on his weaknesses will stand him in good stead.

After all, it’s “not easy for a team-mate” of Verstappen’s to “survive” he says.

Perez is in the midst of his best-ever start to a Formula 1 season with the driver having recorded two wins in four races.

But in the mix there’s also been his Australian Grand Prix disaster when an off in qualifying resulted in a pit lane start with the driver only able to recover as far as P5.

As such he trails Verstappen by six points but firmly believes this season could yet be his, Perez the first team-mate since Daniel Ricciardo to take the fight to the reigning World Champion on the track.

“I’m mentally very strong,” he said. “That’s my biggest strength and that has always been.

“It is not easy being Max’s team-mate because he’s delivering all the time and he’s winning all the time. We’ve seen it in the past that it’s not easy for a team-mate to survive.

“I believed in myself but I had to go very deep into understanding the whole concept of the car and making sure that I put the right tools in place to be able to fight.” recommends

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One of the things he revealed he needed to understand was how the Pirelli tyres worked with the Red Bull F1 cars.

Despite being a renowned tyre whisper, Perez acknowledges there were times last season when managing the tyres on the RB18 wasn’t his strong suit.

It’s something he’s worked on over the winter with his engineers, and his improvements were notable in Baku where he was able to look after his tyres while maintaining a fast pace.

“I think one of my weaknesses last year was looking after the tyres,” he said. “During the winter, I sat down with my engineers to go through it, because I was pretty disappointed [with last year] – I didn’t have good race pace.

“I think we managed to understand a lot of things and we’ve been much better in that regard this year.

“When I came to Red Bull, the way you look after the tyres around the teams is very different so I had to learn a lot on how to look after the tyres in a Red Bull car.

“I think in my first year, I got better towards the end of the year. But, with the regulation change, I was not able to look after them properly.

“I feel now that I’m much better at it. With the understanding of a Red Bull car, I feel much more like a Red Bull driver.”

He added that he’s also feeling the support of the team when it comes to his own title quest.

“I do believe that the team will give me as much support as they do with Max,” he insisted, “and it’s what they’ve been doing pretty much since the start of the season, so in that regard I think we have to appreciate that a lot from Red Bull.”

Perez, though, faces a mammoth task preventing Verstappen from claiming a third World title with the Dutchman have proven in the past to be the more consistent of the team-mates.

Although he’s come second to Perez in two of this year’s four races, the 25-year-old believes his past experiences will help him shrug off Baku and focus on the Miami win.

“What helps is that we have the dominant car so worst case normally you finish second, best case you finish first,” Verstappen told Sky Sports.

“It’s harder of course to also create a bigger gap. Checo has always been very good in Baku and for me personally it’s probably the other way around, I don’t really enjoy driving there so much. Sometimes it just doesn’t really suit your style as much.

“For sure Checo has had a great start to the season, he’s always working as hard as he can to do the best possible job and he did an amazing job in Baku so you have to acknowledge that as well.

“I’ve been in this position before in 2021 and last year I had to catch up a lot because of the misfortune and it’s all about putting these performances in day in day out and of course with the car we have you cannot afford big mistakes. It’s a long season, a lot of things can happen.”

The Red Bull team-mates will line up on grid in Miami this weekend chasing the team’s fourth 1-2 result in five races.