‘Free to beat’: Max Verstappen’s manager sends warning to Sergio Perez’s replacement

Max Verstappen could have a new team-mate as soon as 2025, when Sergio Perez's contract expires.

Reigning World Champion Max Verstappen has been imperious once again in 2023, as the Dutchman heads to this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix with a 69-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship.

Verstappen leads the championship ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez, who is in the midst of a downward spiral.

Whilst the two-time World Champion is on a run of four wins in a row, Perez has gone three events without a rostrum.

To add to Checo’s woes, he’s failed to progress to Q3 in the last three races, whilst Verstappen has claimed pole at each of them.

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Verstappen was on hand to claim Red Bull’s 100th victory in Formula 1 at the recent Canadian Grand Prix, whilst Perez languished in sixth.

There is no doubt who Red Bull’s lead driver is and why Perez is coming under increased scrutiny.

As things stand, many would be surprised if the Austrians offer the 33-year-old a new contract at the end of 2024, especially if his poor form continues.

Red Bull are seemingly relieved that they at least have Verstappen at the front, given how different the championship would look if both Red Bull drivers were performing poorly.

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Verstappen is clearly very aware of his team-mate’s current struggles, after telling the media in Canada that things “would have looked very different for Red Bull” if he hadn’t won.

The Dutchman’s manager has now had his say as well, with Raymond Vermeulen having sent a warning to whomever replaces Perez in the future.

“Bring it on,” Vermeulen told Dutch publication Formule 1.

“Everyone gets the same material. And everyone is free to beat Max, right?”

Verstappen’s obliteration of the championship since 2022 has certainly made life “fun” for his manager, with the Red Bull driver’s image having certainly grown across the globe.

As a result, Vermeulen is being left to sort lots of deals; however, he recognises that the growth of the driver’s image is ultimately down to his “performance on the track”.

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“Making deals is fun. It is a gigantic flywheel that is now turning,” Vermeulen said.

“Of course I don’t know where it ends, but I think there is still a whole world open to us. But in the end it’s all about Max’s performance on the track.

“Now he has this ‘boy next door’ imagine, but as soon as he wears a helmet he is a lion that tries to eat everyone. And I think that appeals to people.”