‘Forget it’: Dutch pundit insists Leclerc and Russell couldn’t match Verstappen at Red Bull

Max Verstappen has made a habit of ruthlessly dispatching his team-mates.

Max Verstappen and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc in Baku 2021.v1

Dutch racing driver Tom Coronel and RacingNews365.com founder Ruud Dimmers are both of the opinion that Sergio Perez did not perform to a sufficient standard during his first season with Red Bull last year, and that Pierre Gasly has earned another go in the seat.

Gasly was promoted from Toro Rosso – now AlphaTauri – to replace the Renault-bound Daniel Ricciardo ahead of the 2019 season, but a failure to score a podium while team-mate Max Verstappen managed five with two race wins ultimately saw him dropped back to Toro Rosso midway through the season.

He was replaced by Alex Albon who, despite a promising end to 2019, suffered the same issue as his French predecessor in that he was often over half a second adrift of the flying Dutchman.

The Thai-Brit’s two podiums in 2020 were not enough to keep in the seat, and he too was dropped at the end of the year.

This opened the door for the arrival of Perez, who had just won the Sakhir Grand Prix with Racing Point prior to his signing with the Milton Keynes side.

Though the Mexican did manage to out-qualify Verstappen in only his second race weekend at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, he would achieve this feat just once more throughout the entire year, but his five podiums and one race win were enough in advisor Dr Helmut Marko’s eyes to keep him around for 2022.

But the 32-year-old was, in similar vein to those before him, notably slower than the newly crowned world champion and he finished fourth in the Drivers’ Championship behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, while Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton battled for championship glory.

As a result, Mercedes beat Red Bull to the constructors’ title, and Dimmers posited to Coronel that “Perez does not deserve that seat at Red Bull next to Verstappen at all.”

“Agree, completely agree,” was the 49-year-old’s response.

Article continues below

2016 world champion Nico Rosberg has previously suggested that Gasly, having scored three podiums and won a race since his return to the junior team, has earned a shot at redemption in the main fold.

Coronel agrees with this, saying: “I think Pierre Gasly deserved it.

“Firstly because he comes from the Red Bull pool and secondly because he has shown that he has matured, he is now stronger in the head. The self-confidence is back. I would just put him next to Max.”

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez at the 2021 Turkish Grand Prix.v1

Perez proved a useful tool in Verstappen’s title success, vitally holding Hamilton up in Turkey and Abu Dhabi.

He also claimed victory in Azerbaijan following a race-ending puncture for the 24-year-old and a brake setting error for the seven-time world champion on the subsequent red flag restart.

Otherwise, Coronel finds himself underwhelmed at the Mexican’s input last year.

“I expected a lot more from Perez last year, but really a lot more,” he explained.

“When did he really help? Once at the end of the season and once somewhere in the middle of the season. Other than that, he was never around at all.”

Dimmers pondered whether Perez’s perceived lack of performance was down to a pure lack of pace on his side or whether his team-mate’s colossal talent made him look worse than he really is.

“We expected more from Perez, especially because he has about ten seasons of experience. But is Perez so bad or is Max Verstappen just extraterrestrially good?” he questioned.

“Gasly couldn’t compete with Max either, who tried a completely different setup with his Red Bull, then it went from bad to worse.

“Perez did the same thing. Gasly couldn’t manage it, Perez couldn’t manage it. They were both wrong about the setup.”

The six-time World Touring Car race winner theorised as to why Perez’s form picked up later on in the season, scoring three of his five podiums in the latter stages of 2021.

“He was stronger then. Why? Because he went back to Max’s setup again. The fastest setup is simply decisive but then those egos start playing up…” he said.

The 24-year-old Dutchman has dispatched four team-mates at the five-time constructors’ champions, and Coronel does not believe there is anyone on the grid currently who can go toe-to-toe with him, with the exception of one man.

“Except Lewis Hamilton!” he exclaimed.

“We should really just put Lewis and Max in the same car. Then you get the Prost-Senna effect.”

“Forget it!” was his reply when asked if either George Russell or Charles Leclerc could match Verstappen for pace were they placed in the same car.

Red Bull’s line-up of Verstappen and Perez will remain the same this year, while Hamilton will be partnered by Russell who has replaced Alfa Romeo-bound Bottas.