Sergio Perez believes being Max Verstappen’s team-mate is the hardest job on today’s grid as the Dutchman puts you “under pressure” to get everything out of the car.
This season, their third as team-mates, it briefly looked as if Perez was going to challenge Verstappen for the Drivers’ Championship title only for his dream to fall apart in a string of qualifying disappointments.
Failing to make it into Q3 five races in a row, Perez could only watch as his title hopes disintegrated one Verstappen victory after another.
Sergio Perez: If you are not strong enough, it is very difficult to take on him
Even when Perez returned to form, recording back-to-back podiums in Hungary and Belgium, it wasn’t enough to stop the Verstappen juggernaut as the 25-year-old extended his race-winning ran to eight.
But while Perez has said it was his Monaco qualifying crash that led to his troubles, his off in Q1 damaging his trust in the car, it has been suggested his problems began back in Miami where he started on pole position but still lost to Verstappen.
That Sunday Verstappen came sprinting past his team-mate to win the race by five seconds, and he did so despite starting ninth on the grid.
Perez accepts it’s not easy having someone as prolific as Verstappen as a team-mate.
“It is very difficult to have Max as a teammate,” he told Viaplay.
“He is very talented, works very hard, always performs, and is goal-oriented. He is a top driver, but also nice to have as a team-mate.
“You have to perform to the maximum. It puts you under a lot of pressure. It’s not easy to deal with someone who always performs and gets everything out of the car. It’s an important quality and that’s why I learn a lot.”
Asked if being the double World Champion’s teammate was the ‘hardest’ job on the grid, he replied: “Yes, I think so. If you are not strong enough, it is very difficult to take on him.”
Earlier this year Perez spoke about his rivalry with Verstappen, declaring that the “level of respect between Max, myself, the engineers, is really high, although people might think differently, but it’s extremely high.”
Perez’s struggles this season had led to rumours the Mexican driver would be dropped by Red Bull at the end of the year, replaced by Daniel Ricciardo.
However, team boss Christian Horner has emphatically denied that.
“We have a contract,” Horner told Speedcafe. “We’re happy with Checo and he will be our driver next year.”
He says Perez could even be handed a new contract come 2025, saying “If Checo delivers, we’ll keep going with Checo.”