Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023

Red Bull’s rivals say they are racing Perez but not Verstappen

2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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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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2023 Belgian Grand Prix

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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26 comments on “Red Bull’s rivals say they are racing Perez but not Verstappen”

    1. Why? They’re not doing a particularly good job “racing” Pérez either.

      Since Miami – before which he finished 2nd, 1st, 5th, 1st and 2nd – Pérez has mostly been using his races to recover from really bad qualifyings. It’s not like these other teams have much of a role in this.

  1. Big surprise

  2. It has been Sergio Paceless since Monaco. If this was a close fight in the constructors’ championship with either of the three Mercedes, Mclaren, Ferrari will beat them because of Sergio Paceless performance.

  3. Sergio is 33 going on 34. I cant see him getting any quicker next year. I only see the pressure building more over the rest of this season..

    1. VER-PER combination is better than HAM-ROS, HAM-BOT, HAM-RUS anyday. Because Perez defends against rivals really good when it’s needed, and no team-mate dramas.

      1. Better for who? The team? Or a better driver line up in general? Hamilton-Russell and Hamilton-Rosberg would have accumulated more points than Verstappen and Perez if they were in that car. Perez couldn’t even take P2 in the WCC last year.. and he looks capable of losing it this year as well if Mercedes makes a step forward.

        1. Coventry Climax
          2nd August 2023, 13:51

          I think I mostly agree with you, but for the

          Hamilton-Russell and Hamilton-Rosberg would have accumulated more points than Verstappen and Perez if they were in that car.

          That’s impossible to say. Could also be that none of these drivers would have felt at ease in the Red Bull, and would have had similar results to almost all of Verstappens team mates thus far: Being crushed.

          Would have been nice to know, but we never will, I’m afraid.

        2. Yeah, strange comment. Ham-Ros was amazingly strong, scoring more points but more importantly for Mercs, rendering the rest of the field irrelevant. The whole show was about their battle, all eyes were on both Mercedes and nothing else mattered. Is that not the dream situation for a manufactor that is in F1 primarily to sell it’s product ?

          This year, many people try to forget about RB to focus on the rest… It was maybe hard to manage, but you can’t make it more effective.

        3. @todfod Agreed. It looks more like a Mark Webber situation, where from 2010 through 2013 he didn’t finish second in the championship even once.

          Though an underperforming second driver might be slightly more entertaining to watch than the Hamilton-Rosberg and Hamilton-Bottas days, I couldn’t justify it to the team in question themselves.

          1. Why include 2010? Until the penultimate race in Brazil people were arguing Red Bull should have had Vettel move over as Webber was ahead in the championship. Webber never adapted fully to the Pirelli tyres starting in 2011, and definitely can be said to have underperformed, but he was much more competitive on the Bridgestone tyres. He went right back to winning races and even a championship in the WEC on Michelin tyres with Porsche.

        4. Absolutely, russell and hamilton is a complete line up, perez makes it so red bull’s one isn’t, the car is too superior to say it’s the better line up just cause they have more points.

      2. Coventry Climax
        2nd August 2023, 13:47

        Sorry, but most of the time, when defending from rivals is all that is expected from Perez, he’s not even there, nowhere near, but way back, doing one of his signature ‘recovery’ races. And even then, most of the time he’s not getting all the way to the top to fight Verstappens competitors.
        Not that it makes a difference to Verstappen, but Perez is a rather lousy racing driver still way too frequently making stupid mistakes that, with that amount of experience, he should never make. And even when there’s no mistakes, his pace is way off, as are his overtaking skills. Generally, Perez tries the same overtake trick, lap after lap after lap. Then when DRS can’t help him out, he gets frustrated and tries something stupid.

        The above also explains the ‘no team mate drama’.

      3. True, Perez’s defending was decisive to Verstappen’s 2019 title. Without slowing down Hamilton so much, Masi would never have been able to stage his special last laps ‘title showdown.’ I’m not sure about going forward. The last two seasons, Verstappen has needed no help. Next season? Red Bull might need Perez consistently in 2nd or 3rd on the grid at least if the other teams are closer. Rosberg was always consistently up at the top with Hamilton and tended to remain so in the race. Bottas qualified well but had an increasing tendency to drop down the field and find himself unable to recover. Plus he offered zero Perez-style assistance to Hamilton in his final season (maybe understandable as he was on his way out anyhow).
        There are two other questions: who replaces Verstappen? OK, possibly a long way off, despite his odd comment or other about leaving F1. But Red Bull clearly need to nurture a new talent at some point – probably excluding their present roster of drivers. And ‘the show’. Verstappen winning everything isn’t an issue for Red Bull, except insofar as it encourages FIA/Liberty to curb Red Bull, somehow, to make the racing more competitive. I’d have thought this would matter more to Red Bull. Apparently not. But having a HAM-ROS kind of rivalry would at least temper the calls for changes to pull Red Bull (Verstappen) back as we’d have a title fight lasting more than a 1/6 of the season.

        1. Coventry Climax
          2nd August 2023, 13:58

          .. to curb Red Bull, somehow, to make the racing more competitive ..

          Liberty and FIA don’t, as they’re just concerned with revenue, but I’m sure that you realise how implicitly ridiculous that actually is / would be.

          It doesn’t create more effort from the lower positioned, it just hampers the ones that did put in the effort.

        2. In 2019 Perez wasn’t even driving for RB.

          1. ! Yep, maybe 2021 works better.

        3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          2nd August 2023, 17:57


          But having a HAM-ROS kind of rivalry would at least temper the calls for changes to pull Red Bull (Verstappen) back as we’d have a title fight lasting more than a 1/6 of the season.

          There’s no way Max’s dad would allow competition at Red Bull. Max cannot run side-by-side with another car unless his car is vastly superior and he can overtake with reverse. You’ve heard him say a million times “I don’t want to race”, “I want to be in front with noone on the track” etc, etc, etc.

          2021 was a nightmare for Max as it was a clinic on track – Max looked like he was a young kid riding bumper cars at an amusement park.

          1. There’s no way Max’s dad would allow competition at Red Bull.

            is it possible to stop with these nonsense or is it a disorder of some kind? (*)

            You’ve heard him say a million times “I don’t want to race”,

            one is enough.. show it.
            If you are pointing at his remarks about leading the race i see where the problem originated (*)

          2. 2021 was a nightmare for Max as it was a clinic on track – Max looked like he was a young kid riding bumper cars at an amusement park.

            Until Silverstone the fight was fair.. then someone (tip: not Max) changed the rules of the game massively

          3. @seth-space
            The fight was not fair till Silverstone, what would be more accurate was that yielding wasn’t observed for the first time in that season and it resulted in the inevitable. ( Was at the race) not going to go into a 2021 debate but the disparity in the driving duo at Rbr is insane considering I how strong the car is and ultimately the cars don’t drive themselves…

  4. Coventry Climax
    2nd August 2023, 11:48

    Just when I thought to read something sensible from Wolff, he comes up with this: ‘we seem to be following a similar development routes’. Haha, that’s by far the best way I’ve ever heard describe the word ‘copy’.

    Mercedes still have no clue what causes their bouncing, let alone have a way to get rid of it, whereas the Red Bull seems to not have suffered from it at all, as of day 1 the ground effect car was reïntroduced for the 2022 season.
    That’s about one-and-a-half year ago already! We’ve had Red Bull start seasons badly, to then catch up within just a couple of months. They’ve not made that mistake again these last two seasons, it seems.
    Red Bull have been in this situation too though, engine wise, when the hybrid regulations came into play. That was Mercedes’ advantage. Back then, everyone credited Mercedes and their drivers, one in particular, for doing a good job, let’s now credit Red Bull for the same reasons.

    Good to hear Wolff and Vasseur admit to this and admit they’ve got to do a better job.

    So, to my collegue fans: Don’t blame Red Bull for their dominance, blame the others for their lack in competitiveness. Blame the FIA for making catching up ever more difficult, and blame the FIA for then coming up with lousy, gimmick ‘solutions’ to the issues they introduced themselves. Blame the FIA for not opposing Liberty more and keeping an eye on the sporting side instead of letting it slide ever more into a fake ‘reality’ show.

    1. Agree completely

  5. 40 points ahead of 3rd place in the standings even starting from the back in 6 of 12 races.

    Oh yeah, youre racing him.

  6. IMO this was said by Toto purley to destabilize Perez. Toto loves the mental games and seems to play well.

    1. Coventry Climax
      3rd August 2023, 0:48

      Not sure that really works on Perez. He’s usually quite capable of destabilizing himself, no interference required.

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