Ex-Red Bull driver pinpoints moment that Max Verstappen ‘broke’ Sergio Perez

Ex-Red Bull driver Christian Klien believes that the Miami Grand Prix victory was the moment that Max Verstappen ‘broke’ Sergio Perez’s mentality. The Mexican had won two of the opening four Grands Prix, announcing himself as a title contender in the process, but failed to win again in 18 attempts before the end of the 2023 season.

After winning in Jeddah and Baku, Perez capitalised on a red flag caused by Charles Leclerc to clinch pole position for the Miami GP, while Verstappen was left down in ninth place. Despite starting so far down the order, the three-time world champion had risen to second by lap 15 and snatched the race win from his team-mate on lap 48.

Speaking to RacingNews365 about the team-mate battle in 2023, Klein said: “Max was tremendously good and consistent. But it wasn’t all a piece of cake for him. Look at qualifying in Monaco, where he certainly didn’t have the fastest car.

“During the second half of the season, the other teams were closer to him, especially in qualifying. He showed every time that he was on top of it and made the difference.”

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The Austrian driver then turned his attention to Perez, adding: “Every high level of sport is a mental game as well. I would say Max is definitely one with the car and with the team. It feels like pressure is not getting into his head at all.

“That was the difference to Checo. He had a very good start to the season and maybe he had in his mind, ‘OK, maybe this year I can beat Max or at least on the same level’. But I think Miami was already the turning point where he realised, ‘OK the guy on the other side of the garage is really unbeatable’.

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“I think mentally that broke him a little bit. It took him a really, really long time, maybe until the last couple of races where he got back [on track]. He’s not a bad driver and you cannot unlearn how to drive a car fast. But in the end, it’s a mental game.

“I think he realised now that he’s at the end of his career. He’s in the best team, in the best car. He realises ‘I have a driver next to me that I probably cannot beat’. [But he can] enjoy it, go for podiums and go for race wins. I think he was already thinking this way during the last races of 2023.”

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