Verstappen’s impressive fightback ensures Perez’s early promise is short-lived

2022 F1 team mate battles: Verstappen vs Perez

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The complete reset brought about by Formula 1’s 2022 technical regulations change had a fascinating but short-lived effect on the balance of power at Red Bull.

In 2021 it had been clear that, while Sergio Perez was closer to the pace of Max Verstappen than his predecessors at Red Bull had been, he was not about to upstage their star driver. But Perez did more than enough to win a contract extension.

Once the well-sorted RB16B was replaced with the promising but overweight RB18, the balance of power shifted. Verstappen couldn’t get the new chassis to turn into corner the way he likes, and over the opening races there was often little to choose between him and Perez in terms of single-lap pace. Perez even grabbed the first pole position of his career in Jeddah, but an early Safety Car played against him, opening the door for Verstappen to open the team’s 2022 account with a win.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Monaco, 2022
Perez won in Monaco after crashing in qualifying
It wasn’t just Perez’s pace which was striking about this early phase in the season. Red Bull also suffered reliability problems which compromised their points-scoring in some early races. Verstappen had two race-ending failures in the first three rounds, one more than Perez, who was however delayed by a fault in Miami while his team mate won again.

This made the following race in Spain an interesting case study of Red Bull’s approach to team orders. Verstappen arrived 19 points behind leader Leclerc with the same margin over his team mate in third, but despite these narrow gaps at such an early stage in the season, Red Bull had Perez pull over for his team mate twice in Barcelona. He made way for Verstappen again two races later in Azerbaijan.

In between those came Perez’s latest contract extension and, days later, his first win of the year in Monaco. This came after he out-qualified Verstappen again, a feat this time aided by Perez spinning into a barrier, thwarting Verstappen’s attempt to improve. Later in the season speculation mounted that Verstappen suspected Perez’s brush with the barrier hadn’t been entirely accidental.

Perez’s car let him down in Canada, evening up the retirements score between him and Verstappen at two-all. Meanwhile Red Bull were making headway with their car, lightening the chassis and addressed the world champion’s handling concerns. From the mid-point in the season what had been a close contest in qualifying became utterly one-sided, Verstappen regularly coming out ahead by more than half a second. Consequently, there was little question of whether Red Bull would enforce team orders when a penalised Verstappen caught Perez during the race at Spa; he simply breezed past.

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Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2022
Verstappen pulled well ahead of Perez after the summer break
At one point it looked like Verstappen might win every race after the summer break. That didn’t happen because of Singapore, where a fuelling error by his team cost him his final lap in Q3 and Perez won. Verstappen lost one other race, in Brazil, by which point he was already champion.

Given that, he might have been expected not to be too bothered about an off-podium finish on a rare weekend where the team encountered tyre degradation problems and were for once unable to contain Mercedes. But Verstappen, having been allowed past his team mate in an unsuccessful attempt to attack Fernando Alonso ahead, surprised those watching by refusing to hand the place back to Perez when told to. Verstappen insisted he “had his reasons” but refused to elaborate on what they were, prompting speculation the Monaco episode made him unwilling to cede ground to his team mate even with the trophy locked up.

Verstappen demonstrated the best of his abilities in getting a handle on a car which clearly wasn’t to his liking early on. He reasserted a dominance which never looked under serious threat early on, even when Perez was occasionally able to out-qualify him, something which almost never happened after round eight. But as the final races of 2021 had shown, even a driver of Verstappen’s talent can benefit hugely from the goodwill of his team mate, and it remains to be seen whether he will come to regret the needless antagonism he provoked in Brazil.

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Unrepresentative comparisons omitted. Negative value: Verstappen was faster; Positive value: Perez was faster

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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35 comments on “Verstappen’s impressive fightback ensures Perez’s early promise is short-lived”

  1. Seems very clear looking at the stats in my mind i thought Sergio was more closer…

  2. Verstappen couldn’t get the new chassis to turn into corner the way he likes, and over the opening races there was often little to choose between him and Perez in terms of single-lap pace.

    There you go folks – it’s the car.

    1. Yes, Perez can’t get the pace out of the faster car. He was confident on street circuits with the sluggish early season car.

    2. With a season exclamation mark in Brazil.

    3. You and your ‘facts’ – don’t you realise that ‘facts’ have a well known anti-Verstappen bias?

      1. Itsmeagain (@)
        5th December 2022, 17:54

        ‘Valtteri, it’s James’, are also facts. The fact that teamorders so early in the season are not only are done by RB but also MB (spanish GP 2021) doesn’t ring a bell here I see. At least a lot of fans here have a selective memory (including the writer of this ‘article’)

        1. What are you talking about @itsme ? Neither SteveP, nor I, mentioned team orders.
          The ‘fact’ under discussion is, it’s entirely about the car. That’s what a lot of people say, you know, when someone is dominant in a season. “This driver has nothing to do with it, my granny could win in that car, he’s just lucky he got given the best car, etc. etc.”
          I remember many people saying this in, let me see, um, just to pick some random years, 2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. Not surprising if someone says this in 2021 or 2022 is it?

          1. So its a childish act out of revenge?

    4. Itsmeagain (@)
      5th December 2022, 18:13

      No, Max was testing new parts at the beginning of the season…..

      1. I think all teams were testing, to some extent. New rules you know. Given the restrictions on testing these days, it’s amazing so many got so much right.
        I don’t recall who it was, but some reporter famously asked Lewis at the start of the season: “What if your team doesn’t get it right this year?” Lewis of course expressed confidence they would “get it right”, but it turns out that guy had a point.

  3. Everybody expects Max will outperform Checo in every qualifying and race. When Checo was close at the start of the season he was immediately hyped. But even in Spain Perez admitted Max was faster and on a different strategy when he was asked to let him past. The stats show Perez was never on the same level not even at the start of the season like so may wanted to believe.

    1. Its part wishful thinking and part defending the V6 Hybrid champ Lewis. If Lewis has a bad phase he is testing for the team. If Perez has a bad phase its because the car is just built for Verstappen. The fact is simply that Perez is a Bottas, but just hasnt got the materials Bottas had to come in more often trailing the nr1 in the team. And the skill difference between Max and Perez is bigger than we saw with the Lewis Bottas pairing.

      1. I don’t see the link with Lewis to be honest. I think if Perez would have been quicker than Max, like Leclerc was when he joined Vettel at Ferrari, Perez would have been the nr 1 at RB eventually. Teams don’t just pick a nr 1 driver because they like him but they are nr 1 based on their speed.

        1. The link with Lewis, is that he lives rent-free in Mayrton’s head. There is obviously no relevance to the actual article, which is about Red Bull team mates.

          1. Itsmeagain (@)
            5th December 2022, 18:08

            No, it shows the bias of the writer (and fans). Where in similar situations (like the MB teamorder in the spanish gp 2021) wasn’t an issue so early in the season, people on this website where bashing RB for no reasons. And we al know how often Bottas got the well known message (the message some fans here don’t even acknowledge Bottas had ever received) So the relevance is that the writer is highlighting situations which are not even mentioned when it was a case with a certain British driver. ‘Rent free living….’, no just a case of good journalism or feeding your biggest population of viewers.

          2. Obviously not just in Mayrton’s head. Some kind of timeshare deal maybe?

          3. Really? I Didn’t know the media had that much of an easy job influencing. I thought most people could see well through. Worrying stuff if people can’t link topics or see through motivation of authors and institutes. It does explains a lot on the sign of the times and the often unsubstantiated comments here, though.

        2. Agree about the number 1 and 2 thing, it’s been shown multiple times, ricciardo on vettel, verstappen on ricciardo, leclerc on vettel, the only reason number 1s and 2s don’t switch most of the times is that the number 2 is usually slower.

  4. Jeffrey Powell
    5th December 2022, 8:44

    If Verstappen hadn’t been able to beat Perez easily the tantrums would have been something to behold. Max is ,in the right car, supremely quick probably the quickest of this era, but unless you are Dutch or Belgian difficult to warm to, not impossible as the Piquet family might attest to, just difficult.

    1. And you know this because you spent time with him? Or is it something the media has told you?

    2. He was booed in Abu Dhabi. It seems that a lot of regular attendees are far from having warmed to him.

      1. That was because of the Brasil thing with Perez. People are sheep, they’ll be steered by the media every time.

        1. Tbh, what he did in brazil was absolutely unnecessary, so I understand those people’s reaction.

          1. Fair point. Especially since we still don’t know what exactly these ‘reasons’ were. Would be nice to know. If he doesn’t share than its on him people boo him for it.

  5. There was no early promise, just reliabilty issues. GOATstappen owns Portierez

  6. Hahaha, this is the reverse story of the George Hamilton narrative. To even suggest George didnt deserve to finish ahead of Lewis. And now suggest Perez could keep up with Max (or couldnt because the car is so catered towards Max). This is just too much. Why not call this site

    1. Dude…. Again? Give it up.

      1. It’s an obsession with him, sadly.

        1. You can’t be this ignorant to propaganda. You are being played

    2. If you hate the site so much, how about you stop coming here you’ll not be missed.

      1. @slowmo how are you? Hope all is well. I do not hate the site. It has recently become more and more one sided ever since Lewis doesn’t win anymore which is a pity (both the one sidedness and for Lewis). It is understandable though since it is quite an adaption to make after so many seasons of wins and titles. Shattering of dreams is never easy. I just had hoped for a more sportsmanship like transition since transition is inevitable. But give it a few years and hopefully people get over their disappointment and move on. Therefore I still hope this site can return to the f1fanatic days and in the meantime I simply respond here and there where I get the feeling the bias is really getting out of hand. I just wish for people to see through the antics being used towards them. You are so getting played and within an F1 setting it is relatively innocent. But how do these people consume other media? What is their take out of those real world problem outings? Worrying stuff if people are so susceptible for twisting stories and so ignorant. As to this site, there is just a handful of people getting personal and not supporting their views with argumentations or explanations. They will disqualify themselves when just shouting since arguments ran out. Furthermore I really appreciate the no gossip policy of the site. I do not recall having seen rumours labelled as facts. It does get it’s twist towards the narrators agenda, but there is no jumping to be first etc. I know that when this site doesn’t mention certain things, they are still unconfirmed or simply not true. So the level of this site is above other media out there. A big compliment is in place here. And to some extent the bias of some authors here is endearing and a testimony of their dedication to their heroes.

  7. Perez has always been a very mediocre driver that arrived at RB through necessity and not skill.
    In his FI days Perez couldn’t even keep a car on a straight in the rain.

  8. Two things:

    1) The early part of the season was street track heavy with 5 out of 8 tracks (AUS/SAU/MIA/MON/BAK) not being permanent. Perez likes those tracks more than Verstappen, while Verstappen also didn’t like the sluggish front end. He needs the pointy car to dedicate himself to the corner with a barrier on the other side. Those street tracks could have made the gap smaller than it actually was, because in the race track season, Perez lost it all.

    2) The first race is a ‘Perez win’ while Verstappen and Perez DNFed, but were within 90% race distance and so were counted in the results. It should have been a grey bar.

    1. Indeed on point 2, or if anything it should’ve been a verstappen “win”, since he was the one inbetween the ferraris and as I recall perez was further behind than the 2nd ferrari before each had their technical problem.

  9. Robert Henning
    5th December 2022, 11:51

    What a load of bull.

    The whole Perez WDC narrative should have never existed. Perez has beaten Max on race pace 0 times and even when the car couldn’t turn or whatever, Max and Charles were fighting miles ahead while Perez was stuck behind Sainz.

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