Damon Hill believes Saudi Arabian Grand Prix winner Sergio Perez will pull out the stops this season to battle Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen for the world title.
Perez and Verstappen have traded race wins in the first two races of 2023. However, there is no disputing that the Mexican’s triumph in Jeddah last weekend was aided by his teammate’s misfortune in qualifying, when a driveshaft failure left the Dutchman a lowly 15th on the grid.
Since his arrival at Red Bull in 2021, Perez has been no match for Verstappen over the duration of the championship, with the latter winning 26 races versus Perez’s three wins.
And yet Hill believes that Perez can give Verstappen more than a run for his money this year as Red Bull exerts once again its hegemony over its rivals and the two drivers battle in a league of their own.
“Checo knows what he’s up against, but he’s not going to go down without a fight. It could be quite interesting,” said the 1996 F1 world champion and Sky consultant.
But Hill reckons that Verstappen will be determined to nip in the bud – on the track but also off it – any hint of a serious challenge from his teammate.
“I think the problem that you have is that Max is a bit of a force of nature, and it’s how much pressure he can put on the team to make sure his championship aspirations are not interfered with by Checo,” added Hill.
“From the point of view of the sport, I think that they need to let Checo have every opportunity to fight with a level playing field within that team. Because I know the pressure from the Verstappens, his dad as well, on Red Bull will be intense.
“He’ll be pulling out the card of saying, ‘I’m your future. The whole opportunity is built around me’ and he’ll be leveraging them.”