‘I think he knows that too’: Sergio Perez fired serious Max Verstappen warning

Sergio Pérez claimed two victories in 2022 on his way to P3 in the Drivers' Championship, whereas Max Verstappen claimed 15 wins.

Sergio Pérez’s former manager Adrian Fernandez has warned the Mexican that he will “have to step up a gear” in the upcoming season, with the 32-year-old needing to push Max Verstappen more.

2022 was a relatively good year for Checo, with the Mexican thriving at street circuits in particular.

He claimed his first pole position in Saudi Arabia last year and won the races at Monaco and Singapore; however, his performances were largely overshadowed by his dominant team-mate.

Verstappen broke multiple records in 2022 on his way to a second Drivers’ Championship, something he claimed with relative ease.

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Fernandez has warned Checo that he needs to get closer to the imperious Dutchman in 2023, especially if Ferrari and Mercedes are both in the title fight.

“Checo is performing well,” Fernandez told the Dutch edition of Motorsport.com.

“The problem is that Verstappen is driving next to him.

“Checo is an excellent driver and now very experienced. But now he has to find out what Max does differently from him.

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“Max has of course been driving for Red Bull for some time and the team is built around him. Considering that, Checo is certainly not doing wrong and is probably doing exactly what the team wants him to do.

“But he will soon have to step up a gear. And I think he knows that too.

“Red Bull was very strong last year, but if the competition is closer next season, it will be even more important for the team to have two drivers at the front.”

Verstappen was relentless in 2022, with the 25-year-old having sealed the title after winning the Japanese Grand Prix.

Pérez would easily be seen as a number one driver if he was in any midfield team, instead of having the most in-form driver alongside him.

The signs are there, though, that Checo might be held from fighting for the title by Red Bull themselves, with Verstappen having been favoured for the vast majority of last season.

In Fernandez’s eyes, Verstappen is up there with the greatest F1 drivers of all-time, highlighting how difficult it is for Pérez to consistently beat the Dutch driver.

“Max is just on a different level,” Fernandez continued.

“He is of the calibre of Senna, Schumacher and Hamilton.

“I believe in Checo’s ability, but to get to that level, he will have to take a big step.

“And I’m not so much talking about how he drives, but more about how he works with the engineers to get the car to his liking and his consistency throughout the season.

“Being fastest over a lap once, finishing a session on top or winning a race, it’s all well and good but if you’re going for the championship you’re going to have to be strong all season.

“Look at Valtteri Bottas. He spent years in the best car, but failed to become champion. The difference between him and Lewis? Consistency. That is what makes champions so special.”

There is absolutely no doubt that if Pérez somehow beat Verstappen to a title, then he’d go down as one of the all-time greats, with even Lewis Hamilton having failed to beat the Dutch driver in a title fight when both were in contention.

Beating Verstappen nowadays is virtually impossible, with Fernandez hailing the Dutchman’s maturity and “untouchable” nature.

“Max is virtually untouchable at the moment. He hardly makes mistakes. And if something unexpectedly goes wrong, he still knows how to overcome that setback,” added Fernandez.

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“Like in Austin. There, after a problem in the pits, he fought as if he were fighting for the World title, when he was already champion. The title was in, but he kept going for it every race. He remained the same Max.

“Although I think he has started driving more with his head, where he used to take too much risk and crash. He’s much more mature.

“And when you have someone next to you who is as strong as Max and always fast like him from the first lap, it is quite intimidating.”