Max Verstappen is never one to mince his words, and after taking pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix, he made a pointed remark about his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, claiming that their cars are “equal” in terms of performance.
Now the race is over, Max having dominated and Perez shamefully retiring only to have to return to the track to serve another penalty, such comments by the Dutchman are even more poignant.
While Verstappen took pole position at Suzuka, Sergio Perez was fifth on the grid. Oscar Piastri, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc managed to squeeze in between the two Red Bull drivers, creating a significant gap in their qualifying performances.
Max Verstappen’s pole position at Suzuka was the result of a commanding performance that saw him finish over five-tenths of a second clear of second-placed Piastri. In stark contrast, his team-mate Perez was much further back, almost eight-tenths of a second behind Verstappen.
Perez was open about his difficulties in qualifying, admitting, “It wasn’t as easy as I expected, I had a really scrappy qualifying,”
However, he praised Verstappen’s form, admitting, “I think Max has been on a very high level and I haven’t been able to get the maximum out of the car, I haven’t felt comfortable since I’ve been here, so we tend to see those kind of gaps.”
Verstappen’s subtle jibe
When Verstappen was asked about the performance gap between himself and Perez after qualifying, he gave a succinct but powerful answer: “No, all I can say is that the cars are the same.”
There was a subtle jab in the statement, suggesting that the performance gap rests primarily on Perez’s shoulders, that his team mate is nowhere near his level.
In contrast to Red Bull’s challenging weekend in Singapore, Max Verstappen is exuding confidence in Japan, particularly with the performance of his RB19. He was pleased with the balance of the car and insisted that it allowed him to push the limits with confidence. Obviously this confidence contributed to the final result, winning the Japanese Grand Prix and securing the team the constructors championship pretty much single-handedly this season.
Throughout the weekend, Verstappen fine-tuned the car’s set-up, focusing on small adjustments, especially in preparation for qualifying. Clearly, Verstappen’s confidence shows, particularly in the first sector of the track, allowing him to get the most out of the car and secure pole position and then the final win.
He said: “When you have that confidence, especially in sector one, you can really push it to the limit in a controlled way. It put a smile on my face while I was driving…”
Verstappen’s bold assertion that the cars are equal has added a fascinating dimension to the ongoing Perez situation at Red Bull. Quite how the team can justify running the Mexican driver next year is fast becoming farcical.
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