Max Verstappen says having Sergio Perez fighting at the front in Baku was “how it should be done” if Red Bull is to fight for championships this season.
Perez took his first victory for Red Bull in Azerbaijan, running second to Verstappen after a strong display before he went on to win when his teammate suffered a late tire failure. The result helped Red Bull extend its lead in the constructors’ championship over Mercedes, and Verstappen believes it was the sort of performance that championship contenders require.
“It’s great to have two cars up at the front fighting for the championship and also scoring the points,” Verstappen said. “Baku was a great example of that and how it should be done. It’s great that Checo was able to make the gap to Mercedes bigger in the constructor’s championship and that he’s now third in the driver’s championship.”
Although Red Bull has won each of the last two races in Monaco and Baku and Verstappen leads the drivers’ standings, he is wary of how Mercedes will respond on permanent circuits.
“I’m feeling good but I’m sure that Mercedes will be very strong on the ‘normal’ tracks again, so we have to keep pushing and keep improving right to the very end because it’s never enough,” he said. “So far the season has been pretty good to us, but we need to remember that there are still a lot of races ahead of us.
“I am happy with the race results that we have had so far and that we are leading the championship, but we also have to be there leading it in Abu Dhabi, that’s all that matters.”
Verstappen’s team boss, Christian Horner, also expects the title race to remain close throughout the season, and believes that is lifting his team.
“It’s swings and roundabouts isn’t it?” Horner said. “Max could have come out of the (Baku) weekend putting 10 or 11 points onto his championship lead if it had finished where it was with five laps to go, so he could have been 15 up. He’s still four up. But at one point it was looking like he could be 21 down if Lewis would have nicked the victory.
“It’s swings and roundabouts and I think it’s going to do this, while the car’s performance is so close, it’s going to do that throughout this championship and that makes it so exciting to be a part of and motivates everybody in the team to a whole new energy level.”