Saturday, December 9, 2023

Verstappen-Pérez: the enemy, at home

He Miami Grand Prixi can unbalance the internal pulse that they maintain max verstappen and Sergio Pérez in Red Bull and that threatens to become a full-fledged ‘civil war’. With two victories for each one so far this season (Czech won in Arabia and Baku and Verstappen did it in Bahrain and Australia), The Mexican is no longer satisfied with the secondary role in the energy drink team and this weekend in the first of the three appointments on the 2023 calendar in the United States, He will have a legion of fans to try to rise to the leadership of the World Cup, held by his partner, from whom he is currently separated by only 6 points.

In Baku, Pérez came away strongly strengthened after scoring both races of the weekend, the first sprint of the year and also the main test on Sunday, where he held off Verstappen. In favor of Max, it should be remembered that Russell’s touch at the start on Saturday and the bad strategy of Red Bull in the race on Sunday, when he called him to the pits without waiting for the imminent safety car. But the truth is that Czech He has also had his moments of bad luck this year and in fact, he considers that right now he could already be in front of the championship.

“I think without all the problems we had in qualifying in Melbourne, we should be leading the World Cup. I definitely have everything to believe that we can do well. I am fighting for the title, but I also know that there is a long road ahead of me, so I need to keep my head down and keep working to keep winning races”, warns Pérez.

Red Bull also understands that with 19 grands prix ahead, it must give its two drivers the freedom to fight on the track and even more so considering the enormous and reassuring advantage they have over the rival teams that are chasing them: Aston Martin, second in the constructors’ championship, he is 93 points and Fernando Alonso, third in the drivers’ table, has 27 points less than Checo and 33 less than Max.

Inside war

As the season progresses, there will come a time when Red Bull may opt for team orders, either because differences with their direct competitors – Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari – begin to narrow, or because they consider that the internal battle that Verstappen and Pérez are waging is starting to get out of hand. In motorsport it is often said that the first enemy is your partner, you have him at home. And throughout history these types of rivalries have been very difficult to manage. And it is not necessary to go back to the times of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Much more recent was the Rosberg-Hamilton pulse in Mercedes, so intense and with so much wear and tear that it led the German driver to announce his premature retirement days after winning the title from the Englishman.

In Baku, Verstappen and Pérez took their fight to the limit. Checo knows that to win the current champion you have to take risks: “We touched the wall on several occasions… but it was necessary because he knew Max was always pressing from start to finish,” the Mexican acknowledged at the end of the race. In Miami, Peréz can return to demonstrate his preference for urban circuits, although a year ago, on F1’s first visit to the Hard Rock track, Verstappen was intractable and took victory ahead of the Ferrari, Leclerc and Sainz tandem, while Checo had to settle for fourth position.

Thus, this weekend ‘sparks’ may fly in the Red Bull box: Max is not willing to cede the lead to ‘Checo’ and the Mexican has to prevent the Dutchman from raising his lead in the championship.

Just in case, Pérez has already made it clear that beyond the track, his relationship with Verstappen is not as bad as it is ‘painted’ in the media: “I get along well with Max. Naturally, we both want to win. But Outside of the car we have a good relationship. We are very similar outside of racing. We have a separate life away from the track. That helps the relationship itself.”


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