While the rift between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez may have been over hyped the past few weeks, of the top three Formula One teams the Red Bull pairing looks less solid than Ferrari and Mercedes’. Max Verstappen is clearly the leader in the garage of the Milton Keynes outfit yet his Mexican team mate astonishingly appears to believe he is not the Dutchman’s number two.
Sergio’s career was on the rocks following the closing weekend of the 2020 F1 season having been replaced by Sebastian Vettel at the Racing Point team. Just days before Christmas Red Bull Racing announced they had dropped Alex Albon to a reserve driver and recruited the unemployed Sergio Perez to race alongside Max Verstappen.
Perez a disappointment
The 2021 season saw a battle royal between Verstappen and Hamilton concluded only on the last lap of the last race of the year. The constructors’ championship was also tight for the first time in years and eventually decided in Mercedes favour by just 25 points.
However it was Verstappen who dragged Red Bull close to the line in the constructors’ race as his new team mate Perez scored less than a third of the team’s final tally.
The reality was that Valterri Bottas made the difference for Mercedes as Perez failed to live up to Red Bull’s hopes.
Sergio stepped up somewhat in 2022 scoring 40% of the team’s total points and winning two grand prix. Yet questions over his future with the team surfaced following flash points created by the Mexican driver.
Red Bull team mate tensions sparked
Perez crashed during the final runs in Q3 qualifying in Monaco preventing Verstappen from completing his final quick lap. Sergio went on to win the race the following day with Verstappen making just P3.
Then prior to the Mexican GP Sergio asked the team to help manufacture a home win for him. Verstappen responded “no chance” stating he believed “there are no presents” and F1 races should be earned and not contrived.
The next time out in Brazil the team asked Verstappen on the last lap to allow Sergio through to improve his position in the race with Ferrari’s Charles LeClerc for P2 in the championship.
Verstappen could barely contain his anger over the pit radio, claiming he’d previously explained his position to the team and given his “reasons.”
“Helping’ Sergio to win
The topic of ‘helping Sergio’ then ran on into the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Verstappen paid lips service to ‘helping Sergio if I can’ but given his dominance in the race it was down to Perez to beat LeClerc on track.
Perez pushed too hard too early and on much fresher tyres he was passed by the Ferrari driver and finished the race and the championship in P3.
Helmut Marko all but confirmed that weekend that Daniel Ricciardo was returning to the Red Bull Racing fold. Given the strife the team had suffered over the previous weeks since Perez’s request to be given a race win in Mexico the notion quickly gained ground that Ricciardo was there to step in should “they toys come out of the pram” as Damon hill described it.
Verstappen influence on Ricciardo
Damiel Ricciardo won 6 grand prix in 5 seasons racing for a none competitive Red Bull outfit. During the intervening 4 seasons Ricciardo has struggled to replicate the form he showed while driving for the Milton Keynes outfit.
Max Verstappen now reveals he tried to persuade Ricciardo not to leave the team back in 2018.
“It would have been better for Daniel if he had stayed longer at Red Bull at the time,” the Dutchman toldFormule1.nl.
“I did talk to him about it. It’s also about feeling comfortable somewhere. That was no longer the case at one point.”
The depth of friendship between Max and Daniel has been widely reported since his return to Red Bull was revealed. It is likely Max was involved in the process just as when Ricciardo was considering leaving the team 4 years ago.
For One Last Time.
The final chapter of a remarkable story.
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— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) November 27, 2022