Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has openly acknowledged his puzzlement over the significant gap in qualifying performance between Red Bull teammates Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
The substantial contrast in their qualifying times, particularly evident at the Dutch Grand Prix, has raised questions about Perez’s position within the team and his ability to keep pace with Verstappen.
Verstappen clinched victory in front of his home crowd at Zandvoort, narrowly surpassing Fernando Alonso to secure the win.
Meanwhile, his teammate Perez secured a fourth-place finish after incurring a five-second penalty.
A staggering 1.3-second gap between Verstappen and Perez during qualifying sessions has prompted scrutiny and intensified the pressure on Perez to prove his worth as Verstappen’s teammate.
The disparity in their performances has raised questions about the competitiveness of the Red Bull Racing RB19 and Perez’s ability to harness its potential.
Ahead of the feature race on Sunday, Toto Wolff expressed his bewilderment at the unexpected difference in performance between Verstappen and Perez.
Speaking to the media, Wolff characterised the situation as “odd” and “bizarre,” considering Perez’s racing pedigree and accomplishments.
Wolff acknowledged Perez’s track record as a successful Formula 1 driver, stating, “Checo’s not an idiot.
“We have seen in all these years Checo is a grand prix winner, multiple grand prix winner, and he was at Racing Point, so I cannot comprehend [it].”
Wolff also noted the pattern of Verstappen’s dominance over his teammates, attributing the sizeable gap to Verstappen’s unique ability to tailor a car to his driving style.
He stated, “We’ve seen that Max has destroyed every single team-mate that was with him, whether it’s his ability to create a car around himself, that is just very tricky to control but fast if you can, and that creates those gaps, the 1.3.”
Despite the notable contrast in performance, Wolff revealed that there were no apparent explanations for the substantial gap between Verstappen and Perez in qualifying.
He acknowledged the anomaly, stating, “But I haven’t heard any obvious explanations. But yeah. Odd.”
Perez, who initially appeared to pose a challenge to the championship with two wins in the opening four races of the season, has encountered difficulty sustaining his momentum and has been overshadowed by Verstappen’s remarkable form.
In stark contrast, Verstappen has surged ahead in the drivers’ championship, solidifying his lead and positioning himself for a potential third consecutive championship title.