Red Bull chief explains difference between Max Verstappen and ‘poor old Sergio Perez’

Max Verstappen makes subtle dig at Lewis Hamilton

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Red Bull chief technical officer Adrian Newey claims that ‘poor old’ Sergio Perez has taken longer to adapt to a ‘nervous’ team compared to his seasoned team-mate, Max Verstappen. The Dutchman used the imperfections to great effect last year by winning the world title, but with Perez now settled in the duo could be a lot closer in 2022. 

Verstappen was a cut above Perez last year, finishing with more than double the points as he pipped Lewis Hamilton to his first world title. The Mexican’s solitary win and five podiums were dwarfed by Verstappen’s massive haul of 10 race victories as the 24-year-old routinely kept fans on the edge of their seats. 

Indeed, it was Perez’s first year with the team since making the step up from Racing Point. Going up against a generational talent like Verstappen could have gone a lot worse, but Newey was alert to the key difference between the duo in the partnership’s early stages. 

“The driver is an important part of the loop,” Newey told The Race, “With the last few cars – not so much this year’s – we had a car that was quick to rotate but which could be a bit nervous on entry and Max was very happy to live with that and use it to great effect.

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“His team-mates often found that more difficult. Certainly poor old Checo, it kind of took him a while to adapt to it. He got there… his performance in the last few races last year was quite strong. To an extent, a car will evolve to the feedback of the driver because that’s a significant part of how you develop the car.

“If you respond to his criticisms of it… if his criticism is entry stability then you respond to that. If his criticism is apex understeer you respond to that. But these cars tend to be much more front tyre-limited than the previous generation. I think it’s probably a function of the latest tyres.”

The running is already a lot closer this year with Perez trailing Verstappen by just five points in the Drivers’ Championship. Red Bull’s early-season fortunes could have been looking even better but for a sequence of reliability issues, and the Mexican has acquitted himself well with two podiums from the four race weekends thus far. 

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc looks certain to pose the sternest threat to Verstappen’s title in 2022, however. With two victories apiece, the battle is finely poised heading into Sunday’s Miami Grand Prix, and while their rivalry is yet to develop the element of nastiness that was present during last year’s run-in with Lewis Hamilton, Newey feels that it wouldn’t be a problem if it did. 

“What’s great about Max is you always know what the car’s capable of because he always gets in it and wrings its neck,” he added. “His feedback is good, he’s very aware of what the tyres are doing and how to manage them. I think his reputation for being wild is unfair.

“Probably what he did in Brazil last year was a bit naughty. Saudi was silly but I think he got frustrated with Lewis not overtaking him but he still shouldn’t have brake-tested him. But Silverstone to me was a clear professional foul [by Hamilton] and people seem to have a short memory. They brand an individual and it takes time for that to go. He’s very easy to work with, very open. You ask him to do things and he’ll always try.”

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