Perez insists Red Bull aren’t forcing him to ‘be behind’ Verstappen

Sergio Perez has re-emphasised his desire to become world champion at Red Bull.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez has reiterated that he is not at Red Bull to solely serve as backup to Max Verstappen, and he intends to compete for world titles at the team.

Perez was signed to Red Bull ahead of the 2021 season when he replaced Alex Albon having taken victory at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix with Racing Point, and his debut year was a satisfactory one.

The Mexican claimed victory at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and that result was one of five podiums as he impressed during his season of learning “how to drive” a front-running car having raced in the midfield for so long.

He also played an integral role in Verstappen’s title success as he fended off Sir Lewis Hamilton in Turkey and Abu Dhabi, before the Dutchman eventually passed the seven-time world champion on the final lap of the race at the Yas Marina Circuit.

But Perez is adamant that his role at Red Bull is not one of servitude to the 24-year-old, and his aim is to win the championship with the Austrian side. 

Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen in Mexico, 2021.v1

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“Red Bull gives me the opportunity to fight for the championship, nowhere does it say that I have to be behind Max,” he told Fox.

“If he’s won, it’s because he’s been stronger on track. I feel that I have the opportunity to be World Champion with Red Bull.”

The 32-year-old indicated that there would be little point to his presence in the pinnacle of motorsport were he not fully intent of becoming a world champion, which he is.

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“It would be a lack of respect towards me and towards my career just to be in Formula 1 knowing that I do not aspire to anything,” he added.

This does not mean to say that the former Sauber and McLaren driver will not play a determining factor in Verstappen’s championship quest against another opponent should such a role be required by the team if Perez himself is not in the fight, but he wants to beat the Dutchman and win the ultimate prize in motorsport.

“I did it in Abu Dhabi and if I have to do it again, I’ll do it. If I’m not in a position to fight for the championship and I’m asked to help, I’ll do it. We are all here for this and I think it’s common sense,” he explained.

“Nobody has told me that I’m second best. I want to beat Max and so do my engineers. The same on the other side, but the atmosphere is really incredible. There’s that desire to always win, but all as a team, and that makes it much easier to work.”

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Perez’s contract expires at the end of 2022, but his excellent performance in the early going of this year may be going some way towards convincing the team to keep him on board next season, and his improvements this season have earned him praise from Dr Helmut Marko.

“He has improved a lot this year in qualifying and in the race he is also there,” remarked the Austrian after Perez’s second-placed finish at the Australian Grand Prix.