Sergio Perez’s father has compared his son’s current battle with Max Verstappen for the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship to the historic rivalry shared between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.
With Red Bull dominating the opening five races of the season, it appears inevitable that the Drivers’ crown will go the way of either reigning champion Verstappen or team-mate Perez.
The Mexican, gunning for his maiden F1 title, reduced his partner’s advantage in the standings to just six points after winning in Azerbaijan and was primed to take over at the top when he secured pole position for the recent Miami Grand Prix.
However, Verstappen, starting ninth, turned the tables to overtake Perez in the closing stages to extend his margin back up to 14 points with 18 rounds to go.
Despite Perez’s aspirations suffering a setback in the States, Antonio Perez Garabay reckons the competition between his son and Verstappen is now comparable to the intense rivalry Prost and Senna endured between 1988 and ’90.
“You have to remember when McLaren had Senna and Prost,” Antonio Perez Garabay told the Mexican newspaper Esto. “This is the same. Today we are living it again.
“They are two tigers, gram for gram, in the same cage. They both think the same, have the same breakfast. You see they both try to take fastest lap from one another.
“In qualifying they want pole position; they want to be fastest in free practice.”
Since Perez made the switch to Red Bull for the 2021 season, Verstappen has comfortably had the upper hand of the two current Red Bull drivers.
The Dutchman secured the previous two Drivers’ titles, has outscored Perez by 968.5 points to 600 and also notched 28 wins compared to his team-mate’s five.
While Perez Snr concedes that Verstappen’s success and longevity within the Red Bull camp have equated to him largely being seen as the lead driver from the outside, he believes his son is now capable of being a consistent match for the two-time champion.
“So he [Verstappen] has a lot of advantage, but Checo can now go at Max’s pace. I think there are only a few thousandths between them in Max’s favour, but on difficult tracks I see them very even,” he declared.
Following a strong start to last season, Perez earned a two-year contract extension with Red Bull that ties him to the Austrian marque until the end of 2024.
Although Perez Snr predicts that his son would have been a multiple F1 World Champion already if he had been afforded an opportunity in a top team earlier in his career, he asserts that Red Bull’s emergence as the runaway force this year has handed Perez a renewed level of confidence.
“Every morning, he knows that he is on a team that is first place, and that second place is the first loser,” he said.
“Today I see a different Checo Perez – the way he talks, walks and looks is different. I notice it like a father when I talk to him and he says ‘no, no, no boss, remember I am number 1’ and I tell him ‘no, no, don’t be confused’.”
“Earlier, finishing tenth was wonderful, but if Checo had had this opportunity from the beginning as other young drivers had, he would already be World Champion several times, I have no doubt.
“I believe we will all see Checo Perez for the next ten years and I certainly see him as a World Champion,” he said.
However, Red Bull Motorsport Advisor Helmut Marko is not so certain of Perez’s title credentials, relaying that Verstappen’s Miami GP comeback showed he is still a level above the competition.
“Checo has certain street circuits where he is strong. But in Miami, Max taught everyone a lesson,” he emphasised via the Austrian newspaper OE24.