Marko: ‘Surviving Max’ an achievement for Perez

Helmut Marko suggests Sergio Perez 'surviving' as Max Verstappen's team-mate for three years is an achievement. Image: Batchelor / XPB Images

Helmut Marko suggests Sergio Perez ‘surviving’ as Max Verstappen’s team-mate for three years is an achievement. Image: Batchelor / XPB Images

Red Bull’s motorsport czar Helmut Marko has praised Sergio Perez despite a difficult season for the Mexican.

Perez has been comprehensively out-performed by team-mate Max Verstappen since the Miami Grand Prix.

Verstappen has won 17 of the 20 races thus far to clinch his third world title, while his team-mate has won just two grands prix.

Those both came in the opening four races of the year before the Miami turning point.

There, Verstappen charged through the field after starting ninth having not set a lap time in Q3.

Perez, meanwhile, started from pole and led the opening laps, only to be run down and beaten by his Red Bull colleague.

It triggered a run of poor races as Perez crashed in Monaco and ran off the road in qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix.

More latterly his form has stabilized and despite his mid-season wobble, the 33-year-old is on course to secure second in the drivers’ championship behind Verstappen.

With two races remaining, he sits 32 points clear of Lewis Hamilton, meaning he could secure a Red Bull one-two in the drivers’ title in Las Vegas this weekend.

But according to Marko, there is no shame in Perez being beaten by Verstappen, who has made a career of besting his team-mates during his time in F1.

“Checo is a very good driver, but I have to go a little bit back.” Marko said to NewstalkZB radio’s Mike Hosking.

“Max dominated all his team-mates, and partly he destroyed them.

“So Checo survived already the third year, which is an achievement.

“And you know it’s, for a race driver, you have to believe that you have the best, and if you are demolished by a team-mate, sometimes by a second a lap, sometimes less, then it’s difficult.

“But he had his, I would say, low in this season. He recovered again, and now he is on a very good level.

“But at the moment, I can’t see anybody would be on the same level in the same car like Max is.”

Perez’s future had been the subject of intense speculation.

As his form waned, Daniel Ricciardo has made a triumphant return to Formula 1 with Scuderia AlphaTauri.

That fuelled suggestions the Australian could return to the Red Bull senior team as soon as next season.

However, Perez holds a contract for 2024, a point that has been reiterated by himself, Red Bull, and Marko.

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