Max Verstappen has hinted that team-mate Sergio Pérez should “accept” his role as a number two driver, with the Dutchman having failed to “name names” whilst discussing Lewis Hamilton’s former team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Verstappen’s and Pérez’s relationship is incredibly similar to that of Hamilton’s and Bottas’ whilst the Finn was at Mercedes, in the respect that Verstappen and Hamilton are both the dominant driver.
Whilst Pérez has attempted to overhaul the double World Champion, he’s never managed to do so consistently, similar to Bottas before he moved to Alfa Romeo.
Bottas claimed a few wins during his time with the Silver Arrows but failed to ever really contest for the World Championship, again, similar to what life is like for Checo at Red Bull.
Verstappen recently used Bottas as an example of a driver who just has to “accept your role”, with some suggesting that it was a swipe at his Mexican team-mate.
“Every year he started fresh,” Verstappen said of Bottas.
“But after a few races, you realise it’s not going to happen again and you accept your role.
“He still finished on podiums, he won a few races and took pole positions, but you just have to accept that the driver next to you is just a bit better. That’s fine, that can happen.
“It’s important that he accepted it. Some drivers can’t do that and then it goes completely wrong.
“Then they don’t survive for very long. I’m not going to name names, but you have to accept your role. You can’t live in a fairytale world.”
Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko also took an interesting swipe at Pérez, after admitting that whilst he’s a “very good” driver, he’s “no Verstappen”.
Very few drivers in Formula 1 history have been as good as the 25-year-old, making for somewhat of a mismatch between the two.
“Our car was 20 kilograms overweight at the beginning [of 2022],” he told Auto Motor und Sport.
“That was a reserve that brought a reliable time gain on the race track as soon as we could reduce the weight. Every kilogram less is a certain time gain in practice.
“This has also changed the driving behaviour in such a way that Verstappen can use it optimally, and if Max can drive at the limit and has confidence, then that’s something different than if someone else drives at the limit.
“Our car was where Perez is. And Perez is a very good Formula 1 driver, but he is no Verstappen.”
Red Bull have never labelled Verstappen and Pérez as number one or number two driver, with the team having at least tried to give the impression that they are treated as equals.
There were a few occasions in 2022 where Checo was told to let Verstappen past, whereas on the one occasion when Verstappen was told to let his team-mate past, he didn’t.
Marko continued that Pérez isn’t a driver who can “challenge” Verstappen for an entire year, with no one being at that level.
“Checo can certainly win a race or two,” he told Sport Bild.
“But at the moment I do not see that he can challenge Max for a whole season.
“In general, I don’t see that anyone with the same prerequisites can currently do this.”
It is clear that Checo has a hunger to defeat Verstappen, with tensions having boiled over at the Brazilian Grand Prix last season.
It was at Interlagos where Verstappen refused to let the Mexican past, defying team orders in the process.
Team principal Christian Horner is certain that his drivers will work together well in 2023 after having a “good conversation” in Brazil; however, the real nature of their relationship will only be seen when racing finally gets back underway.
“The drivers had a good conversation after the race in Brazil, the air was absolutely clear, you could see that by the time they’d arrived in Abu Dhabi, and I think this has been a phenomenal pairing for Red Bull,” he said via SpeedCafe.
“The success that they’ve achieved over the last couple of seasons, their joint performance achieving our first Constructors’ World Championship this year, the first in nine years, has been a remarkable performance by both of them and I’m sure moving forward, they’re going to be delivering as they have done the last couple of seasons.”