Red Bull warn Sergio Perez about Lewis Hamilton amid ‘handicap’

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has highlighted Sergio Perez's “handicap" amid mounting pressure on the Mexican.

Red Bull Racing’s advisor, Helmut Marko, has voiced his apprehension regarding Sergio Perez’s recent struggles in qualifying and the potential impact on his quest for second place in the Drivers’ Championship, where he faces fierce competition from Lewis Hamilton. 

After a series of subpar qualifying performances, Perez’s hold on second place in the standings has become increasingly tenuous.

As the Formula 1 season approached its mid-season break, Perez enjoyed a comfortable lead in the championship, boasting 189 points, with a 40-point gap over Fernando Alonso and a one-point advantage over Lewis Hamilton. 

However, the tide has turned in the last four races, with Hamilton steadily climbing to third place and reducing the deficit to just 33 points behind the Red Bull driver.

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Marko’s concerns stem from Perez’s underwhelming qualifying performances, notably in Singapore where he qualified in 13th place and in Japan where he started from fifth on the grid, compared to his teammate Max Verstappen’s pole position. 

Perez’s ongoing struggle to secure a spot in the pole position shoot-out has left Red Bull worried about defending their second-place standing in the Constructors’ Championship.

Marko candidly addressed Perez’s qualifying challenges, stating, “Qualifying is Perez’s handicap. We have to defend second place because Hamilton is unfortunately getting closer.”

Lewis Hamilton, while acknowledging the Red Bull driver’s superior car, emphasised that Perez’s performance would be pivotal in determining the outcome of the battle for second place in the Drivers’ Championship. 

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Hamilton stated, “It’s ultimately largely dependent on Checo, Checo’s performance moving forward, as he should easily be second, as you know.”

Marko acknowledged Max Verstappen’s impressive performance and the imminent World title win. With just three points needed for Verstappen to clinch the championship, Marko expressed confidence in the Dutchman’s abilities. 

He said, “He clearly wants to decide everything on Saturday, and his chances are very good.”

Praising Verstappen’s growth, Marko remarked, “He has undergone unprecedented development as a person. 

“He only celebrated his 26th birthday on Saturday and has a great personality. 

“As a driver, he surprises us time and time again, for example with qualifying rounds that you never thought possible. 

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“There are no limits to his expectations, his future looks bright.”

Furthermore, Marko drew comparisons to legendary driver Ayrton Senna and his past teammates. 

He highlighted that Verstappen’s approach to challenges differs from Senna’s, as older drivers like Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are the only ones who could potentially match his performance.