F1 creates an odd dynamic where teammates are also rivals and one is given preference over the other.
Sergio Perez is one of the top drivers, but his primary job is to help Max Verstappen and the team.
Christian Horner explained how teammates work at Red Bull, calling Perez a “good servant” to the team.
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner had a blunt message about Sergio Perez’s role on the team — he serves at the pleasure of the team and whatever Max Verstappen needs.
Horner sat down for a lengthy Q&A for the Cambridge Union and was asked how he manages Formula One’s odd dynamic, wherein teammates are also rivals but one is often asked to sacrifice himself to help the other. In his response, Horner first noted that the idea of ”teammates” is misleading.
“You know, ‘teammate’ is a fallacy,” Horner said. “The worst thing that they are. They’re definitely not mates because the guy in the other car is the only person that you are judged against. He’s the only person with the same equipment. So he will either make or break your career. So it’s a fine line.”
As for the specific situation with Red Bull, Horner made it clear that despite being one of the best drivers in the world, Perez’s role on the team was to help Verstappen and Red Bull win championships.
“I think that certainly last year, [Perez] was an incredible servant for the team, where he helped his teammate on numerous occasions,” Horner said. “Certainly in that last race, when he did a stunning job of backing Lewis [Hamilton] up. Without that, Max wouldn’t have won the championship.”
While Horner refused to say that Perez carries the dreaded label of “No. 2 driver,” it is clear that is Perez’s role, even if his perspective has changed a bit this season.
“This year is a complete reset, new regulations, new cars, and Sergio is much more at home in the car,” Horner said. “So he now believes in himself that he can be a world champion, and that adds then another dynamic where, you know, yes, our main competition is Ferrari, but you know, obviously the drivers want to race each other.”
While that may be Perez’s mindset this year, Red Bull’s decisions on the tracks have done little to quell the idea that he is still there to help the team and Verstappen.
The dynamic came to the forefront during the Spanish Grand Prix, when Perez was asked at two points not to race for the win despite being the most dominant driver that day. On one occasion, Perez was heard on the radio calling the order to let Verstappen pass “very unfair.” Later, after finishing second to his teammate, Perez was heard saying, “I am happy for the team, but we need to speak later.”
With the win, Verstappen and Red Bull took the lead in the driver’s and team standings, which they have not relinquished since. Meanwhile, Perez, who finished fourth last year, is in third place, just nine points behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, despite sacrificing points for his co-worker.
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