With the 2023 season kicking off at the Bahrain GP and the Saudi Arabian GP, it is evident that reigning champions Red Bull are in a league of their own. The RB19 is according to Lewis Hamilton “the most dominating car“. In the constructors’ standings, Red Bull is 49 points above the team in second place, Aston Martin. On the contrary, there is much competition between the drivers at Red Bull, Max Verstappen, and Sergio Perez. Both have one win and one second-place finish in the two opening races.
Verstappen has been Red Bull’s golden boy ever since he joined the team from Torro Rosso (now known as AlphaTauri) and has been immensely important to the team. One could say that the Red Bull team since Verstappen’s arrival has been built around him and it is also safe to say that Verstappen has yielded results too.
The 2X WDC champion has had a few drivers keep his aggressive driving style company. Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, and Alex Albon, all have tried to fill the spot but no one quite fits the spot like the ‘Mexican Minister of Defence’, Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez.
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez at Red Bull.
‘Supermax’ and ‘Checo’ have been the power dynamic that Red Bull had been looking at in the era of the turbo-hybrid engines and it is amazing to see how much they have accomplished. After the departure of Albon, Perez joined the team and helped Max Verstappen win his first WDC but failed to bring Red Bull to the WCC. His performance at the Sakhir GP 2020, where he made the impossible recovery from 20th to 1st position throughout the course of the race made him a viable option to choose from the drivers market.
In 2021, Verstappen won the WDC in the last race, largely owing to Sergio Perez’s ability to keep Lewis Hamilton’s hands bound. The controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi GP ensured the end of the Mercedes domination and set a chain of events that resulted in a new domination.
The Red Bull battle could get interesting! 👀 pic.twitter.com/hizTmUFVkY— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) March 21, 2023
In 2022, Verstappen won 15 races in total, completely cruising to the WDC title absolutely destroying the competition. Perez won 2 races in total, one at Monaco and one at Jeddah, but regularly finished on the podium alongside Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz. Red Bull won the 2022 WDC and Perez finished 3rd in the standings, narrowly edged out by Leclerc.
In the 2023 season, Verstappen won the season opener at Sakhir and Perez won the Saudi Arabian GP at Jeddah. Red Bull has consecutively had two one-twos this season and they stand at 87 points with Verstappen at 44 points and Sergio Perez at 43.
Tensions between Perez and Verstappen
Due to the sheer competitiveness of the car, both the drivers at the wheel will be competing with each other and it has a vibe very similar to the 2016 battle between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. This tension was visible last year when Max alleged that Checo crashed out in the qualifying to keep him from taking the pole at the Monaco GP which Perez went on to win.
In the 2023 Saudi Arabian GP at Jeddah, Perez and Verstappen raced against each other for the fastest lap to maintain the lead in the standings. In the end, the 2X WDC champion prevailed, having a 1-point lead over the Mexican.
Checo did not hold back 🤯#F1 #SergioPerez #MaxVerstappen #BrazilGP pic.twitter.com/G8N9DAoQVK— Sportskeeda F1 (@SportskeedaF1) November 13, 2022
Team Principal Christian Horner elaborated “Inevitably, as Max said on the radio, the point for the fastest lap meant a great deal to him. And there was no reason for us not to let either he or Checo have a crack at it.”
Moreover, Max Verstappen’s father, Jos Verstappen was seen in a video sporting a straight and rather displeased face on Checo’s victory at Jeddah. This has sparked a debate online with many taking Perez’s side in the argument. They drew comparisons between Sergio Perez’s father and the Dutchman’s father, showing how ‘Papa Perez’ treasures Max but Jos has no sympathy for the Mexican driver.
All in all, Red Bull seems to be the most competitive team on the grid and is racing towards a very Mercedes-Esque domination. But, it will be interesting to see how the driver duo reacts to the RB19 and if they go hand in hand or guns blazing with each other.