Formula 1: Explosive Red Bull duel: Perez challenges Verstappen

Compromises are not for Max Verstappen.

Formula 1: Explosive Red Bull duel: Perez challenges Verstappen

Compromises are not for Max Verstappen. "I'm not here to finish second," says the world champion. The fact that the only competitor this season on the way to the third world title in a row comes from his own team hardly matters to the 25-year-old.

The duel with the Mexican Sergio Perez at Red Bull is explosive even before the third round of the season on Sunday (7 a.m. / Sky) in Melbourne, Australia, escalation on the track cannot be ruled out.

It gives a deep insight when Red Bull's motorsport consultant Helmut Marko recently had to admit that it was impossible even for the team management to control Verstappen. The two-time champion snagged the championship point for the fastest lap two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia on the last lap and only through his own maneuvers did he keep the championship lead ahead of Perez, who won in Jeddah. "We couldn't control that. That was Max," said Marko. After technical problems, Verstappen only started 15th, but still finished second after his opening win in Bahrain.

Perez sees his chance for the world title

For the first time in his career, 33-year-old Perez sees a chance to seriously fight for the title. The veteran has long been considered a strong driver, but before he switched to Red Bull two years ago he was never in a position to become world champion with teams such as Sauber, Force India or Racing Point. He won five times in his career, Verstappen, world champion of 2021 and 2022, has already finished first 36 times.

However, never in Australia. Red Bull has been waiting for a win at Albert Park since 2011. Sebastian Vettel won back then on the way to his second world title - and even in these years of Red Bull dominance there was an explosive team duel. Vettel and the Australian Mark Webber gave nothing on and off the track, the negative highlight was an accident in 2010 in Istanbul. Webber was held responsible, Vettel emerged victorious from the situation and then became world champion four times.

At the time, Red Bull, led by team boss Christian Horner, didn't really handle the power struggle in their own garage with confidence. But how is the rivalry between Verstappen and Perez developing? Is there a collision here too? Both are not considered best friends, but neither are they bad enemies. "Sergio Perez will not get involved in any topic in which he will have to support Verstappen in the future. I'm sure of it," ex-Formula 1 driver Timo Glock recently wrote in his column for the pay-TV channel Sky. Pérez no longer wants to be a helper, no number two. "Definitely" his goal is to become champion, he said.

Red Bull can almost only beat itself

For the first time ever, Red Bull can achieve the third double success in a row this weekend. Hardly anyone has any doubts that this will succeed. Of course Verstappen is the favourite, the car is superior to the competition. "We have to acknowledge that Red Bull is far ahead," said Mercedes driver George Russell before the race weekend in Australia. Verstappen and Perez have won 18 of the last 21 races, most recently there were even twelve wins in 13 races. Verstappen is not really happy at the moment.

The Dominator wants a more reliable car. Technical problems threw him back a long way in qualifying in Saudi Arabia, and he definitely wants to avoid starting from far behind again or dropping out. "It's important that we improve there," said Verstappen. In addition, he had caught a virus and was not really fit in Jeddah. "This weekend should be a lot better. I hope it's gone now," he said.

Neue Verstappen-Tissue

Verstappen arrived in the paddock in a good mood, tried on a blonde mullet-style wig and was joking. From Sunday there will be rare insights into his private life for the first time in the documentary "Anatomy of a Champion", which will appear on the Viaplay streaming platform in his home country. "I don't really like opening up that much, but I think it's worth looking at," said Verstappen.

The documentary shows his career. The family and close companions have their say. The makers promise "unprecedented access to the life of Max Verstappen". After viewing the documentary, he himself was "very satisfied", but quickly concentrated on the next Grand Prix. "We have the chance of a very good result here again," said Verstappen, for whom it is also a return to a special place: At just 17 years old, he celebrated his Formula 1 debut in Melbourne in 2015.