- Sergio Perez spoke with Insider about his future with Red Bull.
- Perez is second in the F1 standings, but trails his teammate, Max Verstappen by a wide margin.
- Despite Christian Horner calling him “an incredible servant,” Perez is adamant he can be a champion.
Max Verstappen has already secured his second straight Formula One championship this season, but the biggest threat to his hopes of a three-peat in 2023 may come from his own teammate, Sergio Perez.
Perez spoke with Insider about his future with Red Bull Racing before the United States Grand Prix at the Patron Pit Stop in Austin. Earlier this year, Perez signed an extension to remain with the team through at least the 2024 season.
When Perez was asked if he feels he can win a championship with Red Bull, he was adamant in his response.
“Yeah, certainly, Perez said. “I believe I can fight for the championship next year … It is what I want to do.”
This would seem to be at odds with the thinking of Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner.
Horner sat down for a lengthy Q&A for the Cambridge Union and was asked how he manages F1’s odd dynamic, wherein teammates are also rivals, but one is often asked to sacrifice himself to help the other.
“I think that certainly last year, [Perez] was an incredible servant for the team, where he helped his teammate on numerous occasions,” Horner said. “Certainly in that last race, when he did a stunning job of backing Lewis [Hamilton] up. Without that, Max wouldn’t have won the championship.”
Horner said there was a reset this year with the new cars and that Perez is more “at home,” which adds another level of complexity for him and Verstappen.
“[Perez] now believes in himself that he can be a world champion,” Horner said. “That adds then another dynamic where, you know, yes, our main competition is Ferrari, but you know, obviously, the drivers want to race each other.”
While that may be Perez’s mindset this year, Red Bull’s decisions on the tracks have done little to quell the idea that he is still there to help the team and Verstappen.
The dynamic came to the forefront during the Spanish Grand Prix when Perez was asked at two points not to race for the win despite being the more dominant driver that day. On one occasion, Perez was heard on the radio calling the order to let Verstappen pass “very unfair.” Later, after finishing second to his teammate, Perez was heard saying, “I am happy for the team, but we need to speak later.”
It is unclear what was said after that race, but since then, Perez has won two races — doubling his career wins — and finished second four times in 12 races to leap-frog Charles Leclerc into second place in the standings despite sacrificing points to his co-worker.
It is also clear that Perez no longer feels the team is holding him back. When Perez was asked if he thought that was still the case, he was quick and again adamant, saying, “No, not at all.”