Max Verstappen has already worn out a lot of teammates at Red Bull Racing in recent years. Daniel Ricciardo chose eggs for his money when Verstappen increasingly got the upper hand in the mutual team duel. The Australian was succeeded by Pierre Gasly, who was replaced by Alexander Albon after only twelve races. After a season and a half, Albon was also found to be too light, and since 2021 it has been Sergio Pérez who has had the greatest possible difficulty in keeping up with Verstappen. In an exclusive conversation with F1Maximum, analyst Peter Windsor elaborated on the driving styles of both drivers. In addition, Windsor was critical of the statements Pérez made to the press in Melbourne.
Windsor himself knows better than anyone what it is like to be part of a dominant team in Formula 1. After being manager of the Ferrari Formula 1 team’s English factory, the now 71-year-old Windsor was appointed in 1991 as Williams team manager, and saw his team deliver one of the most dominant seasons in the sport’s history in 1992. Drivers Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese finished first and second in the Drivers’ Championship, with Mansell taking more than twice as many points as the top non-Williams driver, Michael Schumacher.
Windsor later became a television reporter and analyst, and the Sydney-raised Englishman is now known for his analysis. In conversation with F1Maximum, Windsor first discussed the striking role that Pérez played during the Grand Prix weekend in Australia. Ahead of the weekend, the Mexican said Red Bull had been a one-man team around Verstappen before his arrival, after which Pérez endured a dramatic Saturday and had to start from the pit lane on Sunday. Subsequently, Pérez attributed his difficult Saturday to problems with the car. “I think it was very stupid of him to say those things,” Windsor said.
According to Windsor, Pérez has little right to complain: “When he joined the team, he must have known that he was going to be the second man behind Max Verstappen. If not, he’s the only one on the planet who didn’t know. He is lucky to be part of a team that allows him to win the occasional race, and Red Bull is lucky to have a driver who is fast enough to win Grands Prix, who is good enough is to be Max Verstappen’s wingman. So it’s a perfect combination.’
Should Pérez put his place at risk due to his reactions in the media, Windsor already sees a potential replacement within his own ranks: “If he wants to throw that away by doing like Felipe Massa, Rubens Barrichello, Eddie Irvine or Daniel Ricciardo if he’s good enough to become world champion on his own, and demand equal status, he’s just going to throw away his spot and ironically hand it back to Daniel Ricciardo. I can’t understand why he says what he says, other than he’s been hyped up by the Mexican press ever since he won in Saudi Arabia after Max had that problem in qualifying. He is incredibly lucky to drive the best car in Formula 1, that doesn’t happen often. I’m in shock that he’s doing this.’
“Red Bull relieved that Pérez made mistakes”
Pérez’s chaotic weekend only makes things easier for Red Bull, Windsor said: “I think if you look at it from Red Bull, in a way they were relieved that he made a mess in qualifying , when he had not yet warmed up the tires. Now the message should be clear to Pérez that he is not Max Verstappen when it comes to the ability to sense and deal with all the variables. In certain areas Pérez is very good, but he is nowhere near the skill set Max Verstappen has to deal with all the variables. Cold tires and a half wet track are two good examples of this.’
Windsor visited the Red Bull leaders before the race to check whether everything was okay with Pérez’s RB19. “It was ridiculous to complain about the car afterwards, with a team as good as Red Bull,” said Windsor. “If the team says there is nothing wrong, there is nothing wrong, then he has to brake differently. There’s no point in blaming the car. It is reminiscent of Fernando Alonso who got angry at McLaren when he was beaten by Lewis Hamilton. I myself took the trouble to speak to both Christian Horner and Jonathan Wheatley before the race, and they both said there was absolutely nothing wrong with Pérez’s car, or with the braking system.’
A million others like Pérez
Now that he has the fastest car, Pérez will want to do everything he can to beat his team-mate, but he is not the first to seem unable to copy what Verstappen is doing. Windsor elaborated on the difference in driving styles between the two drivers, and explained why Verstappen is almost always the faster one. A big difference is in the braking, argues Windsor: ‘It is true that Max normally brakes earlier than Pérez, although this does not necessarily mean that Max has more time to solve any problems. During that time (when he brakes earlier, ed.) he is busy with other things. He then manipulates the car, even if he touches the brakes very lightly and Pérez is still driving full throttle.’
Perez has always been known as a late inhibitor, according to Windsor, just like Carlos Sainz, Yuki Tsunoda, and also Daniel Ricciardo in his early years. “If you’re a late brake, that’s where almost all of your speed comes from,” explains the 71-year-old. “So if that strong point is lost because you have cold tires or the track is wet in places, then you have no other way in your driving style to compensate for that. If a late brakeman is forced to brake early, he’s just going to be slower. The difference is that Max doesn’t brake at a point where the car might become unstable, and Pérez does. So Pérez can only brake late and hope that the tire temperature is high enough. That was not the case in Australia, and that caused the problem. He has no other method of entering the corner.’
One of Pérez’s strong points is going on the gas on the exit of a corner. “It’s one of the best when it comes to traction out of a corner. But corner entry has never been Pérez’s strong point, I’m surprised there are people who think otherwise. Late braking is nothing special these days. There are a million late brakes, just look at Formula 4 or Formula 3. There is nothing difficult about braking late. It’s much harder to brake early and still be very, very fast. That is pure art and that is what Max has and what Pérez does not have,” Windsor praises Verstappen’s gift.
Pool table analogy used to explain Verstappen’s gift
Besides the relatively early braking, Verstappen’s driving style is characterized by his incredibly precise input. “He is incredibly flexible in everything he does, and his input is always incredibly precise and exactly right. Whatever the car is doing at any given time, and I often use this analogy, you can compare it to a billiard table with all the balls in the middle. With your hands you are able to move the table from side to side and you must try to keep all the balls in the center of the table without touching the sides of the table. That’s exactly what Max is very good at.’
“It’s not just about reactions,” Windsor continues. “It’s making sure that when you make a move, that move happens at exactly the right pace so it doesn’t destabilize the ball you’re trying to control. If you make a sudden move, a ball on the other side of the triangle will start moving. Max does that quite naturally. Every movement he makes with the steering wheel and pedals is at the perfect time given what the car is doing. There are probably about fifty dynamic weights that are constantly moving that you are constantly trying to control.’
According to Windsor, Verstappen is not the only one who has mastered this perfectly. ‘Lewis (Hamilton, ed.) can do this and always has. Charles Leclerc can do this too, but probably not as effectively as the other two, because he has so many other things that have influenced his driving and his career in recent years: he has a lot more political stuff to deal with (at Ferrari, ed.). He may not have the capacity to do the same as a result, but I think he has the natural talent to do this if he plays for a great team, like Red Bull for example.
Windsor then returns to Verstappen’s driving style: ‘In practice, Max brakes at the right time for what he feels. He anticipates what the car will do. He brakes at one point, knowing that he needs to turn in a little sharper, for example, to get the front end to bite. He doesn’t brake in a fixed spot every lap, and that’s why he’s so good. He’s completely balanced, he’s all finesse, just like Lewis. All other drivers have some components, but not the whole picture as Lewis and Max have. Only Charles is not far behind this duo.’
Verstappen manipulates, Pérez reacts
Due to the different driving styles, Pérez is always behind the times, while that is not the case with Verstappen. “Pérez is quite stiff entering a corner. Its curves are not long; he doesn’t turn in wide, but he brakes late. That puts him on the edge of the car’s stability and he assumes that the car will do what he hopes the car will do, and if it doesn’t, he’s dependent on reflexes and reactions. Pérez doesn’t manipulate the car, he reacts to what the car does, while Max is always ahead of the car. That’s why Verstappen’s fast laps sometimes don’t even look that fast, because he never has to correct. That’s because he manipulates the car. That’s the big difference. That’s why Max Verstappen is Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez is Sergio Pérez. However, that does not alter the fact that Pérez has a number of excellent qualities and is an excellent wingman for Max’, concludes Windsor.