Max Verstappen has dubbed his Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez “the minister of defence” after keeping Lewis Hamilton at bay in Abu Dhabi.
Perez was leading Hamilton on used tyres after the Mercedes driver had pitted in the season’s finale, which gave his team-mate a crucial period in which he was able to close the gap to his title rival by six seconds.
“He’s the minister of defence now,” Verstappen quipped when reminiscing about Perez’s influence on the day, during an end-of-season video with Red Bull.
Verstappen and team principal Christian Horner were walking around the Red Bull factory with snapshots of the season pictured on the walls, and while discussing Perez’s victory in Azerbaijan the team boss doubled up on the praise for the Mexican.
“He’s been a great team-mate this year, I think,” Horner said. “The ambience between you guys has been fantastic – he says you owe him a beer for Abu Dhabi…”
“Oh, I’ll pay a lot of beers. It’s going to be good,” the new World Champion retorted.
Perez also got on the podium at his home race in Mexico, with his father’s ecstatic celebrations being one of the highlights of the weekend for fans to see.
Verstappen and Horner reflected on the weekend and spoke of how passionate the home fans were for their man, and a P3 finish was the icing on the cake as he became the first Mexican to make it onto the podium at his home race.
“When we got there, the fans were already really crazy,” said Verstappen. “Of course, a lot of Checo fans but now having Checo in the team, it was full of Red Bull everywhere.
“Really happy I won the race but I was also super-happy to see Checo on the podium for his home grand prix.
“Checo’s dad was celebrating – I think he’s still celebrating!”
Horner responded with a laugh and added: “I thought when you came up with the car [to the podium], Checo’s dad was going to be in the car.”
Perez himself admitted he needs to raise his game and be more consistent in 2022, but Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko thinks the decision to sign Perez for the team was the right thing to do because of the way he has performed alongside Verstappen.
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