Newly crowned 2021 F1 world champion Max Verstappen has hailed his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez as a “minister of defence” following the Mexican’s exceptional defence against Sir Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi.
The seven-time world champion overtook pole-sitter Verstappen on the first lap and looked comfortable to win the season finale, and with it, claim the 2021 Drivers’ Championship.
However, Red Bull opted to leave Perez out so Hamilton would need to overtake him after pitting for fresh rubber – and the Mexican did a great job of slowing the Brit down.
After holding the Mercedes driver up for two laps, the gap between Hamilton and Verstappen had disappeared. This ultimately proved key, as it prevented Hamilton from having a free pitstop when the late Safety Car was deployed after Nicholas Latifi crashed in sector three.
Verstappen hailed Perez as a “legend” during the race after witnessing his epic defence against Hamilton, and the Dutchman has now heaped more praise onto his team-mate.
“He’s the minister of defence now,” Verstappen said in Red Bull’s end-of-season review.
In the same video, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner described Perez as a “great team-mate” to Verstappen in 2021.
“He’s been a great team-mate this year, I think. The ambience between you guys has been fantastic – he says you owe him a beer for Abu Dhabi,” Horner said.
Verstappen seemed more than happy to repay Perez for helping him win his maiden F1 crown.
“Oh, I’ll pay for a lot of beers. It’s going to be good,” the Dutchman replied.
Perez had a relatively strong debut season with Red Bull. His race pace was often close to being on par with Verstappen’s, though he sometimes struggled to get close to the Dutchman in qualifying.
He took his maiden win with the team and his second win in Formula 1 in the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, after a tyre failure forced Verstappen to retire while leading the race.
Perez ended the season fourth in the Drivers’ Standings on 190 points – 205.5 points adrift of Championship winner Verstappen.