Perez expects respect from Verstappen amid title battle

Red Bull drivers Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen are rivals for this year's world championship

Red Bull drivers Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen are locked in battle for this year’s world championship

Sergio Perez believes the respect between himself and Max Verstappen will continue as the Red Bull pair battle for this year’s F1 drivers’ championship.

Verstappen tops the standings after four rounds by six points to his team-mate, with the pair finishing one-two on three occasions.

The odd race out was the Australian Grand Prix, where braking issues blighted Perez’s Saturday and compromised his race.

The Mexican driver bounced back to win in Azerbaijan, claiming victory in the sprint on Saturday and then grand prix on Sunday in a near-perfect weekend.

“There’s a very high level of respect between Max and myself,” said Perez.

“And the whole team, I mean, the level we are operating, 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.

“I feel like we’re very similar in the way we approach the sport, so I do not believe we will change; we will be fighting each other like we did (in the grand prix), and as much and as hard as we possibly can.”

Will there be a São Paulo repeat between Perez and Verstappen?

Team boss Christian Horner confirmed Verstappen and Perez are free to race and battle while it remains in the team’s interest.

It is currently in the midst of a run of five races in six weekends that started in Azerbaijan, heads to Miami this weekend, and then after a short break heads to Europe with a triple-header in Imola, Monaco and Barcelona.

“It’s a long year ahead,” Perez noted. “I really believe that we are in the fight.

“Without the problems we had in the qualifying in Melbourne, we should be a lot closer.

“So it’s important not to have those problems ever again and to minimise the problems because I think at the end of the day, it’s just very important to make sure that whenever we cannot win, to finish second is a good day still.”

While the relationship between Perez and Verstappen is currently positive, it has had flash points in the past.

The pair were left at odds following last year’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix when the Dutchman refused to hand back a place to his team-mate.

That incident is thought to stem back to the Monaco Grand Prix, where Perez claimed pole, arguably by crashing late in qualifying.

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