Sergio Perez leaps to Max Verstappen’s defence despite Red Bull row

Sergio Perez extends contract with Red Bull Racing until 2024

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The recent cost-cap scandal surrounding Red Bull played no part in Max Verstappen winning his maiden Formula One world championship. Or at least that’s according to team-mate Sergio Perez, who has jumped to the defence of his partner despite any bad blood between the pair of late.

Verstappen, 25, was widely criticised for refusing to yield sixth place to Perez at the recent Sao Paulo Grand Prix, even though the Dutchman had already secured his second world title. It was shortly before that Red Bull were fined £5.8million ($7m) for a ‘minor’ breach of last year’s $145m spending cap, leading to fresh scrutiny over Verstappen’s first championship win.

Following their breakdown in Brazil, one might understand why Perez’s loyalties to his partner would be weakened. But despite any recent tensions, the Mexican was quick to reassure Verstappen fully deserved the first of his two titles to date.

“If you look at the facts, Max didn’t win the championship because of that,” he told The Telegraph. “We didn’t get any performance benefit from it. Teams that want to take advantage of this by putting Red Bull in a bad light are just unfair. It shows that they are bad losers.”

Red Bull were found to have exceeded the budget limit by $2.2m (£1.8m), though the FIA acknowledged the breach would have been just $500,000 if a tax credit had been correctly applied. As well as being fined, the Milton Keynes outfit will also have 10 per cent less time testing in the wind tunnel ahead of the 2023 season.

Sky Sports pundit Ted Kravitz was vocal in his criticism of Verstappen and his two title wins following the revelations, leading the Red Bull star to snub the broadcaster altogether after winning the Mexican Grand Prix. The boycott was ended following talks between the two parties, and Perez defended his team-mate by reminding of the impartial role media must play when presenting the facts.

“We all have to be careful what we say, both the drivers and the media,” added Perez. “The way we present the news can look bad or normal. I think we play a part in bringing something ‘less intense’.

“Social media is becoming increasingly toxic and I don’t think it’s appropriate for them [Sky Sports] to put Max and Red Bull in a bad light.”

Verstappen signed off his second championship with a 15th win of the season in Abu Dhabi, while Perez finished a narrow third in the standings behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. The former Force India driver is signed on to race for Red Bull through to the end of 2024, having helped Verstappen clinch the crown in both campaigns since joining the team last year.

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