Martin Brundle admits he was happy to see Max Verstappen start from P15

Sergio Pérez sits second in the drivers' championship just one-point behind team-mate Max Verstappen.

Ex-Formula 1 driver Martin Brundle has praised Sergio Pérez for having “matched” anything reigning world champion Max Verstappen tried to throw at him, with the Mexican having claimed his first victory of the 2023 F1 season at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Pérez’s victory from pole position has certainly raised the interest in the championship this season, with the Mexican’s victory having been the first where his team-mate has finished second.

Checo was comfortable and clinical out in front, with his pace having been virtually identical to Verstappen’s all race.

Whilst Sunday’s Saudi Arabian GP was by no means a thriller, Verstappen’s driveshaft failure in qualifying certainly added some excitement to the second round of the season.

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The Dutchman had been the quickest driver all weekend prior to qualifying, with many having tipped the 25-year-old to claim another easy victory.

Brundle admits that he was “quietly pleased” when Verstappen suffered his driveshaft failure, given that he was going to have to get his elbows out due to starting in 15th.

“I have to be honest and say that when Max Verstappen had a driveshaft problem in qualifying meaning that he would start 15th on the grid, I was quietly pleased, relieved, and energised,” Brundle wrote in his Sky Sports column.

“Nothing against Max and his incredible talent, but at least we would have something to look forward to on race day.”

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Verstappen breezed through the field and found himself in second place by the halfway mark; however, he simply couldn’t produce the pace to catch and overtake his team-mate.

The Dutchman was clearly not happy after the race and called for his team to sort out their reliability problems, given that he potentially lost a victory and a more comfortable lead in the championship as a result.

Verstappen remains in the lead of the standings by just one-point from Pérez, due to having set the fastest lap on the final lap of the race.

This “clearly annoyed” his team-mate, especially as Red Bull told both drivers that the fastest lap wasn’t a concern in the closing stages of the race.

“Perez out front matched whatever his team-mate Verstappen could muster speed-wise and duly won the race in fine style,” added Brundle.

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“His fifth victory, four of which have been on street circuits – but more significantly his first victory when Max was second.

“Verstappen stole the fastest lap championship point on the final tour and that clearly annoyed Perez, who was surprised the team didn’t call off the fight when they had a one-two easily in the bag and he was suffering with a longer brake pedal, and unbeknown to him, Max was feeling a vibration in his transmission.

“Team Verstappen were perhaps surprised that Perez could match their pace, and they were no doubt annoyed that it was ultimately the qualifying car issue which prevented Max setting a new record of 16 victories in 21 races.”