Sergio Pérez and Charles Leclerc have seemingly sent a warning to double World Champion Max Verstappen that they are “prepared” for a potential title fight, with Leclerc in particular expecting a “tight” campaign.
2023 has all the ingredients to be a phenomenal year, with Pérez and Leclerc setting their sights on making life harder for Verstappen.
For Pérez, this could cause in-house issues at Red Bull, something the world was given a vivid glimpse of at the Brazilian Grand Prix last year, when Verstappen defied team orders.
Checo is hopeful that he’ll be able to replicate his strong start to the 2022 season in 2023, with the Mexican having claimed pole in Saudi Arabia and a famous victory at Monaco.
“How we started in the first few races as a team, with the reliability issues that we had, to come away and do such a strong job as a team, it’s very encouraging,” Pérez told reporters.
“And I really hope that we can keep this momentum going for Red Bull and come back next year even stronger. I believe that the competition will be a lot closer for next year, so I really hope that we can keep this momentum going.”
Leclerc is tipped by most as the biggest threat to Verstappen this upcoming season, with Ferrari believed to have worked wonders with their temperamental power unit.
The 2022 Vice-Champion will be keen to not fall away as dramatically as he did last season, with the 25-year-old more than ready this year to “fight until the end” in what he expects to be a three-team battle.
“I think we all prepared for longer seasons, I hope it will be tight,” said Leclerc.
“It’s always nice to have a fight until the end. I’m prepared for more races and for a longer fight hopefully.
“I do believe that Mercedes will be in the fight. Another team? I haven’t seen signs yet maybe to believe that another team will join the top three, but Mercedes will definitely be there next year with a very strong car.
“We’ve seen how much they’ve improved from the first race to the last race. I think they understood what they did wrong, and this is normally the sign that it will go better. So hopefully it will be a three-team fight next year.”