Perez slump ’not my problem’ - Verstappen
"He’s under a lot of pressure and he can’t pull it off"
Max Verstappen insists it’s "not my problem" that Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez’s championship challenge is evaporating.
After a third consecutive failure to even reach Q3, the Mexican is now a whopping 69 points behind back-to-back world champion Verstappen’s utter 2023 dominance.
"Somehow the boys have to be ashamed," Dr Helmut Marko told the Swiss newspaper Blick in Canada. "The only two who can tickle Verstappen’s nerves are over 80 years old between them."
He is referring to fellow world champions Fernando Alonso, who was 10 seconds behind Verstappen at the Montreal chequer, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton who followed a few seconds later.
It’s the closest that Verstappen’s challengers have been all season so far - and Marko thinks the Dutchman was lucky that the Ferraris were so far down the grid.
"They were the fastest on both types of tyres," said the Austrian.
As for Mercedes and Aston Martin getting closer to Red Bull, Marko added: "On the one hand, yes they are closer to us.
"On the other hand, there are only four real corners here and we couldn’t get the hard tyres into the perfect window. Thank God we managed the 100th win.
"It’s a shame that Didi (Mateschitz) couldn’t be here to see it."
Verstappen explained that Sunday in Canada was not "our best day because of the tyre temperatures and stuff".
"But I also know that with their updates, they of course improved," said the Dutchman, referring to Red Bull’s rivals. "So for sure they’ve gotten closer to us."
However, Hamilton is worried that the gap is only closing because of how aggressively Mercedes and Aston Martin are trying to improve their cars.
"I reckon Max’s team are already working on next year’s car," said the seven time world champion. "So we need to take our eye a little bit off the ball and focus on next year as well."
Hamilton is pushing hard for fundamental changes to the Mercedes car for 2024 - including a different cockpit position that cannot be changed this year because of the budget gap.
"This is definitely not the car that, characteristic-wise, is going to be able to beat the Red Bull. So we’ve got to work on that," he said.
Red Bull’s Marko thinks the FIA may also need to be keeping an eye on whether Mercedes is now coming treacherously close to their update limit.
"But please ask the FIA," the 80-year-old told Osterreich newspaper.
Hamilton explained: "We’re making small strides. But Aston (Martin) have apparently made a bigger step with their upgrade. But we already have new parts in the pipeline."
Indeed, Aston Martin’s Alonso, who returned to the podium in Montreal, is now only 9 points behind the struggling Perez.
When asked if he can beat the Mexican to second overall in the championship by the time the calendar gets to Abu Dhabi, the Spaniard smiled: "Yes."
Team boss Mike Krack agrees that Aston Martin is now closer than ever to Red Bull.
"I think so," he said. "We’ve been able to reduce the gap a bit so that’s encouraging. The improvements work as we expect them to and that makes us happy.
"Everything works and now we have to work on the next ones."
As for Perez, the 33-year-old freely admits that his recent performance slide is "very worrying".
"We just didn’t have the speed and we don’t understand why, that’s the crazy thing," he said.
"Max and I treat the tyres a little differently, so I don’t know if it has anything to do with that."
When asked if he can close the now 69-point gap to Verstappen in the championship, Perez answered: "At the moment I’m more concerned about my speed.
"I need to get back in shape."
Former F1 driver Giedo van der Garde suspects that Perez is "mentally broken" after publicly aiming for the title and then entering his current slump.
"I think he’s under a lot of pressure and he can’t pull it off."
Verstappen, however, made clear that it doesn’t really bother him that Perez has fallen off the pace in recent races.
"Well, if I hadn’t been there it would have looked very different for Red Bull," said the 25-year-old. "I wouldn’t be happy with not making Q3 three times in a row.
"But I’m not concerned about it either. The team must be working on that maybe, but you have to ask them. It’s not my problem."
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