Max Verstappen shares his excuse for being beaten by Sergio Perez in Azerbaijan

Sergio Perez claimed victory twice in Azerbaijan, taking P1 in the Sprint race and Sunday’s Grand Prix, closing the gap in the 2023 title fight.

Max Verstappen has accepted that his double defeat in Azerbaijan was down to his struggle to fight the right setup to mount an effective fightback.

Having worked throughout the weekend to get on his teammate’s level, Verstappen admits that he was “playing around with the tools” inside the RB19, only finding the right set up in the closing stages of Sunday’s race.

The Dutchman’s weekend was a disappointing affair for the reigning world champion, as he had to settle for P3 in the Sprint and P2 in the Grand Prix, allowing his teammate to gain significant ground in the 2023 title fight.

“The safety car was a bit unlucky, then I had to push again,” Verstappen told reporters. 

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“I tried to stay very close, to try and get into the DRS.

“I think the tyres were overheating a bit because of that, trying to follow, but also the balance. I was struggling to be really consistent.

“It was just very difficult to have a good balance, entry to mid-corner, and a lot of the lap time here is about entry to mid-corner, to get that right, and I was just struggling with oversteer then understeer.

“So the whole race, I was just trying a lot of things on my steering wheel, playing around with the tools a little bit, to try and get a bit of a better feeling, balance in the car.

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“I actually think that I found a good compromise towards the end of the race because I think my last 10 laps were a lot stronger, and I felt a lot happier with the car, how everything was behaving, but (it was) just a little bit too late.”

Perez is well known for his skill around a street circuit, with all five of his wins at Red Bull being around tracks like Monaco and Jeddah.

The strong showing from Perez, capitalising on his teammate’s challenges, meant the Mexican is now within 6 points of the title leader, ensuring the fight is well and truly on for the 2023 title.

READ: Sergio Perez jokes Formula 1 bosses will make the drivers wrestle each other

With Miami up next, another street circuit, Perez has the chance to lead the Drivers’ Standings for the first time in his Formula 1 career, putting pressure on Verstappen as the Dutchman bids for a hattrick of titles.

With the two teammates trading victories this season, Red Bull secured its 25th 1-2 finish in Azerbaijan, having won every race of the year so far.

The Constructors’ Championship currently looks like a one-horse race thanks to this success, as Red Bull is nearly 100 points clear of its nearest rival Aston Martin.