Sergio Perez has sparked a lot of debate recently, with the Mexican outraged at Max Verstappen’s refusal to follow team orders in Brazil, going on to claim that the Dutchman owes his two world titles to him.
The 32-year-old has played the ultimate team game at times for Red Bull, often sacrificing his own races to help Verstappen in his pursuit of glory, famously holding up Lewis Hamilton last year in Abu Dhabi.
Perez is under contract at Red Bull until at least the end of 2024, but F1 legend Jacques Villeneuve has suggested that the Mexican should focus on his own driving, rather than what his teammate is up to, as he has many drivers hunting his position with the energy drink giants.
“He was strong earlier in the season, after that I thought he was invisible,” he suggested.
“2023 will be important for him. Red Bull will soon have Daniel Ricciardo in reserve, although he will also be used a lot for marketing and media activities. He is good at that.
“They are also talking to Lando Norris, although you shouldn’t place too much significance in that. Teams always have to plan ahead.”
Verstappen and Perez were always thought of having a strong bond, however with the 25-year-old telling his team that they know his reasons for not helping his teammate out in Brazil, it seems that there are cracks beginning to appear in their relationship.
This will not be helped by the comments of Perez’s father, who has recently taken to the media to weigh in on his son’s feud with Verstappen.
“Max has never had such a good teammate as Checo, the rest were all subordinate,” said Antonio Perez.
“Checo wins the races that Max cannot win – the very difficult ones.”
With Perez defiantly being the more expendable of the two Red Bull drivers, Villeneuve has warned Perez’s father than his comments will only be hindering Sergio’s chances of remaining with the team from Milton Keynes.
“He should stay out of it,” he advised.
“In this era, parents have a big voice that is heard everywhere. But that should not happen. They should not get involved.
“This is also why you see Jos Verstappen being less and less visible – he’s being kept out more and more and that’s a good thing.”
Although Perez is contracted, Red Bull are no strangers to replacing drivers early, with Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly both seeing their spells as Verstappen’s teammate cut short.
Finishing third in this year’s drivers’ championship, Perez has vowed to be challenging his teammate for the world title next year, as he feels he has settled in to life at Red Bull.