APRIL 22, 2022
Too early to say Perez in front says Verstappen
World champion Max Verstappen says it's "too early" to say his teammate Sergio Perez may be getting the upper hand in Red Bull's 2022 car.
This week, Dr Helmut Marko said Mexican Perez is finding life at the wheel of the 2022 Red Bull easier, as Verstappen's "aggressive" style is not as effective in the new ground effect era.
"It's too early to tell," said Verstappen, who is actually five points behind Perez.
"There are still many things I want to improve in the car, that's clear, and we're working on it," he told Marca sports newspaper. "But we've only had three races, so we'll see."
The 24-year-old admits one of Red Bull's biggest problems, apart from lacking Ferrari's pace, is poor reliability.
"It's both," Verstappen said, "but obviously if you keep retiring due to problems you are not going to win the title, so you need both.
"You need to be reliable and score points basically in every race, but also be competitive, so it's definitely a combination of the two."
Some have noticed that Verstappen may already have tempered his aggressive wheel-to-wheel combat style in 2022, with his duels with Charles Leclerc apparently much calmer than the ones with Lewis Hamilton last year.
"Every driver and every opponent is different in terms of how they defend and how they attack, so of course your approach to each one is slightly different," he insisted. "That's just normal.
"I think it was also more about the relationship between the two teams, with all the things that were happening throughout last season, and that played a very big role also on the track," said Verstappen.
Another theory is that Verstappen is happy to ease off for a season now that he has won a drivers' title.
"It is definitely better than having zero titles," he smiled.
"It really depends on the car you have to drive, also some luck, and the luck to be in a team that can fight for the championship several years in a row.
"But yes, one title is more than I could dream of, so I'm sure I'd be happy with that."
Verstappen says he also has no regrets about hitting a slightly more difficult period just after committing his long-term future to the energy drink owned team.
"When the contract ends and I am 31 years old, we will see if it is time to continue or not, what opportunities I have, because I will be a lot older then," he said.
"But I did it because I feel good at Red Bull, there's no reason to leave, we have a very competitive team, the people at the factory too, everyone is very committed to the long term.
"With the new powertrain division as well, they are very solid foundations in the long term and I did not want to leave."