The Red Bull driver duo of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen don’t anticipate it being difficult to maintain a good relationship in a potential Formula 1 title fight.
Despite Charles Leclerc scoring the quickest time in both qualifying sessions, the Ferrari was unable to keep the Red Bulls at bay on higher fuel, finishing 21s behind Perez by the end of Sunday’s race.
Therefore, the battle for the Drivers’ Championships in 2023 looks poised to be a straight contest between the two Red Bulls.
With Perez winning both the Saturday Sprint and the main race on Sunday, Verstappen, who finished third and second respectively, now only leads his team-mate by six points.
While Perez admits the desire is there to beat each other, the Mexican doesn’t expect things to turn fractious between the two as the competition heats up.
“Yeah, I think there is a very high level of respect between Max and myself, and the whole team,” Perez, now a six-time F1 race winner, said.
“The level we are operating at, we’re pushing each other really hard, we obviously want to beat each other, I want to win the championship as much as Max wants but there is a lot of respect between us.
“And I feel in a way, we’re very similar in the way we approach or think about the sport so I do not believe he will change. We will be fighting each other like we did today, as much and as hard as we possibly can. But I think with a very high level of respect to us and to our team.”
The last time two drivers in the same team competed for the honour of the World Championship came down at Mercedes during the beginning of its dominant period.
Tensions eventually simmered over between friends-turned-foes Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as the stakes inevitably increased, resulting in several notable clashes on track.
Perez, though, has been unable to challenge Verstappen since his Red Bull arrival in 2021, winning only three grands prix compared to the Dutchman’s 25 victories.
Verstappen has also secured the previous two Drivers’ titles and his team-mate appears the only one who can stop him from clinching a third successive crown this year.
Although Perez has made his best-ever start to an F1 campaign in 2023, Verstappen insists that it’s a long season and concedes the tracks early in the calendar haven’t necessarily played to his strengths.
“We clearly have the fastest car at the moment, but I’ve been in this position before and it’s about consistency,” Verstappen stated. “We all know that.
“It’s a very long season, a lot of different tracks are coming up I think. So far this year we have been at tracks which are a bit stop-starty, not the full-on racetracks. There are few really fast corners and fast straights out there, which I probably also seem to enjoy a little bit more.”
But Verstappen did agree with Perez’s view that a harmonious atmosphere is beneficial to the team, admitting that it’s important to accept when another driver has delivered a good performance.
“But clearly, you know, Checo this year has really been on it, he’s been really performing well and that’s great to see,” he added. “He’s feeling more and more confident in the car and for the team as well, we are really enjoying it.
“And I think Checo and I, we’re having a good time, and we jumped out of the car… And that’s also what is very important: you need to acknowledge and also appreciate when somebody has done a great job. And that’s exactly what happened today.
“And we will continue fighting for the rest of the season but that’s normal, we have done that our whole life.”