‘It’s team first’ – Perez and Verstappen ‘know the rules of engagement’ insists Red Bull boss Horner
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner has batted away any suggestion that tension may be starting to creep into the intra-team dynamic between his drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez – while adding there was “no reason” why their relationship should sour in the future.
Perez expressed his discontent over Verstappen’s late move for the fastest lap bonus point in Saudi Arabia, that point giving the two-time champion a one-point lead in the standings heading into the Australian Grand Prix. At Melbourne, team boss Horner was asked if any animosity could creep into the relationship between the Red Bull pair going forward.
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“There’s no reason why it should,” replied Horner. “They’re both competitive animals and they’re both racing drivers at the end of the day, but they know the rules of engagement, in terms of it’s team first.
“Particularly at this stage of the year where... we don’t know the development capability that other teams have in terms of wind tunnel time as the season goes on... for us it’s hugely important to bag as many points as we can, get as many into the championships as we can early on because we know the others are going to come back at us in the second half of the year.”
With two one-two finishes in the first two races of 2023, Red Bull are already 49 points in the lead of the constructors’ championship, with Aston Martin and Mercedes level on 38 points. Horner said Perez and Verstappen’s start is “fantastic”, even if he conceded that the thought of their rivalry turning sour is on his mind.
“It’s been a wonderful start for us – to have achieved those one-two finishes in both the first Grands Prix is something we’ve never achieved previously and to have both Max and Checo [Perez] up there delivering at the level that they are is fantastic for us as a team,” he said to Sky Sports F1.
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“Does that take more management? It’s just a slightly different focus, and as a team, doing the best that we can to give them the best opportunity that we can – but it’s not just about our two drivers. We have to remember that… while we have a competitive car it’s important that we get those points on the table as quickly as we can,” reiterated Horner.
Red Bull have only won one Australian Grand Prix, back in 2011, when Sebastian Vettel stood at the top of the podium ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.