‘Even more suspicion’ from Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez held the fastest lap at the Saudi Arabian GP until it was snatched by Max Verstappen on the final lap.

Sky Sports F1 expert Bernie Collins and ex-Formula 1 World Champion Damon Hill both believe the battle between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez is set to go “up a notch”, after the Mexican held on to claim victory at the 2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

After sitting in Verstappen’s shadow for the bulk of 2021 and 2022, Pérez has certainly shown Verstappen that he is here to fight for the title this season, with the Mexican having performed brilliantly at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

The 33-year-old capitalised on Verstappen’s driveshaft failure in Q2 perfectly, by claiming pole position.

He went on to win the race from Verstappen, who was unable to get within five-seconds of the Mexican.

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Verstappen’s anger at having finished behind his team-mate was evident after the race, after he left the podium in rapid fashion.

There was an awkward moment between the duo in the cooldown room after the race, due to Verstappen having set the fastest lap on the final lap of the race.

Claiming the bonus point for setting the fast lap is what has kept the Dutchman in the lead of the championship, highlighting just how close the pair are this season.

Pérez was clearly unhappy, though, that the 25-year-old had been granted permission to set the fastest lap, something which Collins believes will result in “even more suspicion among both drivers”.

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“Personally, I think there may be even more suspicion among both drivers going forward,” Collins wrote for the official F1 website.

“In future races, we could expect the fastest lap attempts from both in the closing lap. In those stakes for Saudi, though, it’s Verstappen 1, Perez 0.”

Hill added that Pérez has so far “stepped up to the plate” this season and has demonstrated that he’s not prepared to simply be Verstappen’s wingman or Red Bull’s “weakest link”.

“Maybe he has stepped up a notch,” Hill told the F1 Nation podcast.

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“I had ruthlessness when I needed it. It’s that commitment to yourself and not taking things lying down when things happen in the team. 

“Standing up for yourself and saying ‘no, I am not going to get pushed around’. Sometimes the attention is not equally distributed from one side of the garage to the other.

“There is so much investment in Max as an individual, who is going to be the way this team fights for championships for many years, that naturally you think the attention is going to go to Max. But Checo has stepped up to the plate and shown that he is not going to be pushed around or pointed out as the weakest link.”