Sergio Perez defiant: ‘90% of drivers would sink next to Max Verstappen’

Sam Cooper
Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, neither happy. Bahrain March 2023

Red Bull team-mates Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, neither happy. Bahrain March 2023

Sergio Perez has defended his recent form by suggesting that 90% of drivers would struggle if they were team-mates with Max Verstappen.

After winning two of the opening four races, Perez’s title ambitions fell away in dramatic circumstances as a run of poor form, including five consecutive races without a Q3 appearance, meant his hopes vanished.

All the while, Verstappen began a dominant charge of seven consecutive wins to give himself a 110-point lead at the top of the standings.

Threat of Daniel Ricciardo looms for under-fire Sergio Perez

Perez’s form put him under increased pressure, especially with the threat of Daniel Ricciardo looming behind him, and speaking shortly before his podium finish in Budapest, the Mexican maintained that the majority of drivers would crumble next to Verstappen.

“90% of the drivers would sink next to Verstappen,” he told Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo. “If you are not mentally strong, you can’t be at Red Bull. You should not underestimate the level of pressure you are under here.

“Red Bull is a team where if you have a bad session you have five drivers in your sights. It’s constant pressure from the press. In these three years I have never seen this in any other team before. With Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes, you name the team, all their drivers have had bad moments, but it’s OK. It’s not like Red Bull, you have a bad moment and you have to leave the team.”

Perez’s claims are not unfounded. The likes of Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon have found the pressure too much while partnered next to Verstappen and even Ricciardo during his first stint at Red Bull appeared to opt for a move away rather than staying and fighting for his place.

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Max Verstappen amongst the very best says Sergio Perez

Verstappen has only improved since then, adding two Drivers’ titles to his cabinet and odds-on for a third, leading some to question where he lies amongst the greatest of all time list.

As for the current crop, Perez thinks very few would beat Verstappen in equal machinery.

“I’m not saying none, but few drivers on the current grid could beat Verstappen with the same car,” he suggested.

“People sitting on sofas watching the race underestimate how sensitive drivers are to settings. There are cars that make it easier for you, there are moments in the season when you are more comfortable with the car and it starts to get out of hand, you have to compensate a lot for handling and it doesn’t come so naturally to you.

“And in the end you start to see very small differences that become very big. I am calm because I am giving the best of me. But, without a doubt, he judges himself very differently from the Red Bull drivers. Public opinion will always be there and it is normal. I focus on mine.”

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