MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 02: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing talks with Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing during a red flag delay during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit on April 02, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Perez: I have to beat Max weekend in and weekend out

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 02: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing talks with Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing during a red flag delay during the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit on April 02, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Sergio Perez is playing down talk of tensions between himself and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen but, at the same time, he is not shy to state his goal: Beating the double Formula 1 World Champion every weekend.

The closer the Mexican veteran is to the Dutch ace in the sister car, tensions have grown and will inevitably continue to grow. This season we’ve already had glimpses into a not-so-ideal world of a Number One driver being chased by the designated Number Two harder than expected.

Last year’s Red Bull RB18 was a perfect fit for Verstappen, while teammate Perez struggled to tame it as effectively and the score, in terms of wins, was 15-2 in Max’s favour.

Notably, it took Perez until Monaco – seven races into last season – to find his winning ways and by then he was 15 points behind Verstappen in the F1 drivers’ standings.

This season, after three races, the points gap is also 15 but Perez has a victory to his name, thanks to the RB19 being more suitable to his style, although his under-par weekend in Australia, relative to his masterful victory in Saudi, did raise eyebrows.

Sad but true, Perez making life difficult for Verstappen (as Nico Rosberg did with Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes in 2016) is the only salvation for F1 fans (and Netflix scriptwriters) in a season where Red Bull are simply on another planet, however, this time around both drivers seem capable of extracting similar pace (if Saudi Arabia is used as an example) and providing it was not simply a Checo one-hit-wonder. Time will tell…

Checo and Max as teammates not as “perfect” as Red Bull make out

The once “perfect” Red Bull teammates have hit snags during their time together but there were issues between them in Monaco and Brazil that indicated a venomous atmosphere within the team, that surprised the F1 world that believed the buddy-buddy narrative and caught RBR bosses Christian Horner and Helmut Marko on the hop.

Clearly, they had not set proper rules of engagement between their Lads. Have they yet?

Despite assurances from Horner that Max and Checo were doing fine ahead of the 2023 F1 season, we saw in Saudi a very miffed Verstappen, unable to reel in Perez no matter what the Dutchman threw at the Mexican. It was the latter’s greatest race.

But again cracks were apparent, if Horner had sorted anything out, it was with a band-aid. And the closer the two fight in races to come, expect those tense moments to mount further, it’s the nature of the racing driver beast.

In Australia, Horner told reporters: “For us as a team, the responsibility is to give both drivers the same opportunity and same car to win the championship. It is then down to what they do on the circuit. We have two great drivers in Max and Sergio, there is a healthy respect and I expect that to continue.”

Obviously aware of the speculation of a clash between the two, and despite suspecting his team tried to shaft him on his way to victory in Saudi Arabia, Perez remained diplomatic: “I’m here to do the best possible thing for myself as well. To be honest, we’ve got a lot more respect for each other than people might think out there.”

Perez: It’s all about this season’s consistency

As for tensions within Red Bull, Perez insisted: “Inside it is a great atmosphere with the team, there is a very high level of respect between each other in the team with all the engineers from their side or my side.

And Max as his man to beat, Checo added: “I think we are both mature enough to know what’s right and what’s wrong. As long as that keeps being the case, then I don’t expect anything to change.”

F1 heads to Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, a race Perez famously won in 2021, his first season with Red Bull, and heads there this year hoping for a repeat, his only real obstacle: Verstappen in the #1 car.

Perez has always made it quite clear that he is in F1 to be World Champion, and that goal remains with a plan in place: “If I want to win the championship, I have to beat Max weekend in and weekend out, and keep this level of consistency throughout the season.

“It’s all about this season’s consistency, you know. You can win 15 races, but if in the other races, you just crash and have DNFs and so on, it is not enough. It’s just reaching that level of consistency and taking it race by race.

“There is no doubt that there is no driver on such a form as Max. Together with the team as well as with the car, he is definitely the hardest driver to beat. It will require the maximum out of me to bring my A-game every single weekend,” added Perez.

The Mexican veteran will contest his 239th Grand Prix in Baku, on 30 April, aiming for his sixth win in the top flight, or at least a 29th podium. This is how it stands ahead of Round 4 of the 2023 F1 World Championship:

2023 f1 points graphic after australian gp round 3 red bull