Sergio Perez reinforced his Monaco GP win by passing Max Verstappen in both practice sessions at Friday’s Azerbaijan GP; Follow the Azerbaijan Grand Prix live on Sky Sports all weekend. The race on Sunday starts at 12 noon
Last updated: 10/06/22 19:40
Christian Horner spoke to Sky Sports F1 at the Azerbaijan GP on Friday
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has dismissed criticism from Max Verstappen’s father Jos and insists the reigning world champion will not be prioritized over team-mate Sergio Perez.
Perez won his first race of the season last time out at the Monaco GP, marking a start to a season in which he competed more closely with Verstappen than he could in his debut year with the team.
After Perez’s Monaco triumph, Jos Verstappen told Max’s official website that points had been “thrown away” because the team “exercised little influence” in helping his son as World Championship leader.
However, in conversation with SkySports F1 Between practice one and two at Friday’s Azerbaijan GP, Horner stood by the team’s decision, insisting Perez, who has just signed a two-year contract extension, is on par with Verstappen.
“Fathers and fathers are never entirely objective,” Horner said.
The best of the action from the Monaco Grand Prix
“What wasn’t obvious was all the information that we have during a race. If Max had pitted, I think he would have come out behind George at the time.
“Jos is his own person and personality. He has opinions and that’s absolutely fine, that’s his opinion. The reality for us was obviously a bit different…it’s not a problem.”
Perez’s victory in Monaco put the Mexican within 15 points of Verstappen in the World Championship standings and second place within six points of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
The close gap between the Red Bull drivers has sparked much debate in the paddock ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan GP as to whether Perez is a genuine contender for the title, with his strong performance in Friday practice only adding to the debate.
Max Verstappen admits he can’t have any more downtime in his Red Bull if he wants to retain his world title
Horner insists that if Perez outperforms his teammate – as he did at Monaco – he will get the first call in terms of strategy during the race.
“The #1 driver is the driver who’s ahead, it’s as simple as that,” said Horner. “That’s why Checo got the call during the pit stop that Max, for example, didn’t even have the track position on this lap.
“But our battle is not between the two drivers, we have a very competitive Ferrari with two fast drivers.
“Together as a team we have to fight and take on the challenge of Ferrari who look very fast this year.”
Perez: Nothing in my contract says I have to finish second
Horner’s comments came after Perez insisted on Friday morning his new contract, announced after his Monaco win, contained no indication he was defeated by Verstappen.
“We didn’t talk about that,” Perez said. “There’s nothing in my contract that says I have to finish second or anything. That was not an issue at all.”
Sergio Perez is enjoying his title shot with Ferrari this season as the Mexican driver aims to claim back-to-back victories in Azerbaijan
When asked about his World Cup chances, Perez added: “I feel like I have a good opportunity. Obviously the season is very young so anything can happen now.”
The 32-year-old also said the new contract, agreed ahead of his Monaco win, allows him to focus on racing.
“I definitely have the feeling that as a driver you want certainty,” said Perez. “And you want to get that stress out of the way. The sooner the better.
“It takes so much energy and so much focus to give 100 percent weekend after weekend, so you don’t need that kind of thinking. So it was good that we agreed to the contract so early.”
Horner: Not timing right for Gasly’s return
Perez’s new contract has raised new doubts about the future of AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly in the team.
After progressing through the team’s junior driver program, Gasly was promoted to a Red Bull seat in 2019 but was dropped from that position mid-season after failing to impress.
The Frenchman excelled at AlphaTauri but with a route back to Red Bull blocked by Verstappen and Perez, Gasly says he will consider leaving the team’s stable when his contract expires at the end of the 2023 season.
“We are fortunate to have been able to invest in and grow young talent through the ownership of Red Bull, which effectively has two Grand Prix teams,” said Horner.
“It was obviously a no-brainer for us and totally deserved for Checo to keep that seat. As for Pierre, he’s obviously staying with Red Bull and there’s another year on that contract, but the timing wasn’t right to bring him back to Red Bull Racing.
“It’s very early in Yuki’s career so it’s never been a discussion. If shows we’re not afraid to pull out of the scheme if we don’t think a driver within the scheme is ready for Red Bull racing.
“We are very happy with the pairing we have.”
The full schedule of Sky Sports F1
10:20 am: F2 Sprint
11:45 am: Exercise three
2 p.m.: Qualification
8:30am: F2 Feature Race
10:30 am: Grand Prix Sunday: Azerbaijan
12 o’clock: THE AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX
2 p.m.: Checkered flag: Azerbaijan
3:30pm: Azerbaijan GP highlights