Toto Wolff questions ‘odd’ Sergio Perez deficit to Max Verstappen: ‘Checo’s not an idiot’

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen chats with Sergio Perez in Jeddah. March 2023

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen chats with Sergio Perez.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has no logical explanation for the alarming performance gulf between Red Bull team-mates Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, which stood at 1.3 seconds after Dutch GP qualifying.

Team-mates struggling to contend with the performance level of Verstappen is nothing new, in fact it is a recurring trend, with Perez the latest driver to experience it.

However, since his early talk of an F1 2023 title challenge faded fast, Perez has seen Verstappen streak clear, not only in terms of points, but also in regards to the sheer performance which he can extract from the Red Bull RB19.

Additional reporting by Sam Cooper

Sergio Perez gap to Max Verstappen “bizarre”

Come the end of Q3 at the Dutch Grand Prix, Verstappen was sitting pretty in pole for his home race, while Perez will start P7 after qualifying a huge 1.3 seconds slower than his team-mate.

And Wolff cannot fathom how a multi-time grand prix winner in Perez can be so far adrift of Verstappen when driving the same Red Bull RB19.

“Odd, bizarre,” said Wolff of that gap when speaking to media including following qualifying.

“Checo’s not an idiot. We have seen in all these years Checo is a grand prix winner, multiple grand prix winner, and he was at Racing Point, so I cannot comprehend [it].

“We’ve seen that Max has destroyed every single team-mate that was with him, whether it’s his ability to create a car around himself, that is just very tricky to control but fast if you can, and that creates those gaps, the 1.3.

“But I haven’t heard any obvious explanations. But yeah. Odd.” recommends

F1 2023 title permutations: When can Max Verstappen win the World Championship?

F1 Driver of the Day: Who has won the award in F1 2023?

Max Verstappen stresses it is not all about being the fastest driver

Looking to shed some light on why he has been able to extract such dominating speed consistently from the RB19, two-time World Champion Verstappen explained that being a fast driver is not enough on its own, with the ability to handle pressure and remain consistent also key.

“At the end of the day, it’s not only about being quick or doing fast lap times,” Verstappen told Sky F1. “There’s a lot more that comes into play when you’re fighting for a championship.

“When you are constantly under pressure or having to deliver and being consistent, you cannot afford mistakes when it’s a very high level. It’s a whole different game.

“And of course I come to learn that in the last few years, so it’s not always about being the best driver, it’s about how to handle all these things together with the pressure.”

Verstappen ultimately went more than half a second faster than his closest challenger, McLaren’s Lando Norris, on his way to claiming pole for the Dutch Grand Prix.

The Dutchman’s Drivers’ Championship lead stands at 125 points over Perez as he looks to equal Sebastian Vettel’s record of nine consecutive wins with victory on home soil.

George Russell meanwhile will lead the charge for Wolff’s Mercedes team from P3 on the grid.

Read next: Max Verstappen reveals Sebastian Vettel text during winning streak