Red Bull team principal Christian Horner says he is going to great lengths to ensure his championship-leading drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez are treated equally and that no ‘paranoia’ develops in their rivalry.
Defending world champion Verstappen currently leads the championship after four races by six points from Mexican driver Perez and each has won twice.
So far, Red Bull appears to be allowing the pair to compete against each other without any sign of team orders, and Horner said that situation requires some careful management.
“I think that it is a luxury problem first of all. I think any team principal in the pit lane would hope to have that issue,” he told a news conference after practice on Friday.
“It is something we have experienced before and I think the most key thing is to ensure that paranoia does not creep in, that both drivers are treated equally.
“You go to pains to provide equality to the point of who drives out of the garage first each weekend, alternating, even alternating in the debrief, who talks first.”
But Horner accepted that there were limits to how much a level playing field can be maintained throughout all circumstances.
“It is racing, it is Formula 1 and occasionally something will happen like a safety car or a pit stop or you can’t control every aspect within the sport,” he said, adding that he hoped the duel between the pair would be decided by driving skills rather than reliability issues.
“There are still variables and I think so long as the drivers know that they are both getting an equal chance and it is ultimately down to what they do on the circuit, that is where you want it to play out.”
Checo is ‘sky high’
Perez’s performances this year have given Verstappen some much-needed competition after back-to-back world championships and Horner said it was clear the driver dubbed “Checo” was on a high.
“Checo has had a fantastic start to the season. Two victories so far. The sprint race victory as well, and obviously a second place and a fifth place as well. So he’s started the season stronger than he has ever done. As we all know, confidence is a big thing in any sport and Checo’s confidence is sky high,” he said.
“This championship is going to be a marathon and there’ll be highs and lows to it along the way, I’m sure. But his challenge and the challenge for both drivers is maintaining consistency. And for sure, we’re going to see these guys (Mercedes) turn up and Ferrari at some point, so it won’t just be about our drivers,” he added.
But Horner suggested the test for Perez would come when the tour returns to some of the traditional tracks.
“I think certain circuits have always suited him. I mean, street circuits, he’s always excelled at,” Horner said.
“As we move back into Europe, some of the more classic circuits, that’s where I think he’s going to need to take this and carry this confidence, which I believe he absolutely can do.
“He’s not driving particularly differently. I think this is his third year in the team. He’s settled. He understands obviously how everything works. And yeah, he’s in a good headspace right now.”
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