Max Verstappen rejected by Sergio Perez as team-mate reveals plans to ‘fight’ him in 2022

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen analysed by Coulthard

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Serigo Perez has laid down the gauntlet to Max Verstappen by insisting he wants to challenge for the F1 world title next season. The Mexican played a very important role in helping his Red Bull team-mate dramatically win the 2021 driver’s championship.

At numerous points in the latter half of the season, the 31-year-old held up Lewis Hamilton and cost him time in races, which played perfectly into Verstappen’s hands, especially in the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Perez was happy to assist the Dutchman in his successful pursuit of the championship crown, but now he wants to directly ‘fight’ his team-mate for the title.

Perez’s warning comments come after Verstappen heaped praise on the Mexican, labelling him the ‘minister of defence’ for keeping Hamilton at bay in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix early on in the race.

“Next season I want to be in the fight for the World Championship myself,” said Perez during The Edge podcast.

“We start with the new rules, with new cars, we all start from zero, so that’s the main thing for me, to get there.”

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It would be interesting to hear what Verstappen, who nicknamed Perez the ‘minister of defence’ thinks of this, as the new champion would have to contend with not just Lewis Hamilton, but also his Red Bull comrade.

If Perez wants to challenge for the duration of the season, he will need to hit the ground running.

However, it is not a task the driver will shy away from and he is fuelled by his burning desire to reach the pinnacle of F1.

“I’m here because I fully believe I can be a World Champion and because I enjoy working with my team. I’m very thankful to Red Bull for extending my contract,” he added.

“I really enjoy working with the team, with this group of people, with the engineers, the Red Bull culture, the brand itself. Red Bull is a huge brand.

“It’s a lot of work relative to what I was used to at other teams, but I really feel a great part of it. I work great with Max, with the race engineers, with all the team in general.

“To me, at this stage in my career, I think the most important is that I enjoy it. The time I don’t enjoy it is when I [would] have to go home.”

Speaking of Perez, team principal of AlphaTauri, Franz Tost, thinks Pierre Gasly would excel driving alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull.

Red Bull have no interest in replacing the team-mate of the current world champion, but the seat alongside the Dutchman has been something of a revolving door in recent times.

With the seat currently occupied by Perez, there seems no reason to change the line-up, but at just 25 years old, his boss Tost says Gasly’s stand-out performances have really elevated him as a driver.

“He has fantastic potential,” Tost told GPFans.

“What’s important is I still have the feeling he can improve because that’s decisive then if you are on this level. If we provide him next year with a competitive car, he will be there 100 per cent.

“From the driving, he has now the experience of how to set up the car, how to manage the tyres, he can read the race, which is very important, he is on the radio, the questions he is asking, and he made this year another big step forward, a real big step forward.”

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