Red Bull’s rivals admit Max Verstappen is well out of reach but believe they can continue taking the fight to his team mate.Sergio Perez finished second in last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, the first time he has backed his team mate up in a Red Bull one-two since the Miami Grand Prix seven rounds earlier.
Verstappen leads Perez in the drivers’ championship by 125 points – the equivalent of five races wins. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said aside from Verstappen’s huge lead over the competition the contest behind him has been close.
“I think you just need to take Max out of the equation,” he said. “The second Red Bull is where we are. It would be a fantastic season and close racing [without Verstappen].
“But the sport, the stopwatch never lies. There’s just one guy and one car that are above everything else and we’ve just got to catch up. There’s no choice.”
Wolff believes Red Bull’s rivals are on a par with one of the team’s cars but not the other. “I think you can take Perez into the equation,” he said after Sunday’s race at Spa-Francorchamps.
“We are racing each other, we seem to be following a similar development routes, but there’s just one car that is faster today that was one-and-a-half seconds a lap when he was pushing at the beginning of the stint. So we’ve got to get on top of it.”
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc split the Red Bull drivers in qualifying and gained pole position when Verstappen was penalised. Team principal Frederic Vasseur says they are in a fight from second to 11th place.
“We have to do collectively a better job,” he said. “It’s not that Max is damaging something. Max is doing a fantastic job, Red Bull is doing a fantastic job and it’s just that we have to do a better job. We can’t complain about Max or Red Bull.”
Vasseur said Verstappen and Red Bull’s success is not solely down to the two-times world champion or his team. “It’s quite impossible to split between driver and team or car,” he said. “The driver is also developing the car, he’s also setting up the car, that is part of the performance of the car.
“For sure that when you see the result race after race, there is a big difference between the two team mates but this is not my issue, it is the issue of Red Bull.”
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