Newly crowned world champion Max Verstappen has insisted that he does not want any preferential treatment from his Red Bull team.
Team-mate Sergio Perez played a marvellous support role in the season-ending 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, holding up Sir Lewis Hamilton to allow Verstappen the chance to close up to the seven-time champion.
Verstappen subsequently labelled Perez a “legend” on the radio.
His defensive work was vital, as it meant Verstappen ultimately had the time to pit following a Safety Car brought out by a crash for Nicholas Latifi.
Verstappen then pitted onto fresh soft tyres and, after a controversial restart, passed Hamilton on a dramatic final lap to seal his first F1 crown.
Perez has largely played a support role throughout his first year with Red Bull, deployed strategically on some occasions to buy Verstappen time or give him additional options in terms of strategy.
However, Perez did manage a race win at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which previous Verstappen team-mates Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly both failed to do.
Despite being world champion, Verstappen does not see himself as Red Bull’s number one driver.
“I don’t like to put it that way. In the end, we have the same chances. You have to be respected, of course, but I don’t want to be favoured,” Verstappen said.
The 24-year-old also suggested that it would be disruptive for both himself and Red Bull to give him too much assistance:
“I don’t think I need that either and in the end it’s not good for the team if it’s that way all of the time.”
Ahead of their first season together at Red Bull, Verstappen concedes that he did not know a lot about Perez off the track, but has kindled a harmonious relationship with the Mexican.
“I never thought he would be this awesome. Previously I only knew him as a driver. But now that I have spent a little more time with him, I have noticed that he is really a top guy.”
Hamilton congratulates Verstappen
Hamilton has been cautious to address the media since the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi after a questionable Safety Car procedure from race director Michael Masi, but the Briton appreciates Red Bull’s efforts this season.
“Congratulations to Max and his team. I think we did an amazing job this year,” Hamilton said in the podium interviews after the race.
He also thanked his Mercedes team, who won their eighth straight Constructors’ Championship, for their endeavours throughout 2021.
“Everyone back at the factory and here worked so hard in this most difficult of seasons. I’m so proud of them and so grateful to be part of the journey with them.
“We gave it everything this last part of the season, we never gave up,” he added.
Amid rumours of Hamilton leaving Formula 1 after this season, Verstappen has affirmed that he believes his rival should stay in the sport.