Sergio Pérez believes Max Verstappen is a deserving World Champion after the Dutchman claimed his maiden title during Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with a little bit of an assist from the Mexican.
Pérez showed excellent teamwork early on at the Yas Marina Circuit as he slowed Lewis Hamilton down sufficiently over a single lap to put Verstappen into touching difference, and when the safety car was deployed late in the day after Nicholas Latifi’s crash, it left Hamilton with a tough decision about whether to pit or not.
With the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver opting to stay on track, this allowed Red Bull Racing to pit both drivers for the soft Pirelli tyre for the final laps, and with the safety car going into the pits at the end of the penultimate lap, this gave Verstappen the chance of securing the win and the title.
Pérez was on course to claim at least a podium finish in Abu Dhabi but was a late retirement from the event due to an engine issue, but he feels Verstappen’s victory and championship title were both well deserved.
“First of all, I’m extremely happy for Max and for this Team because they have worked so hard throughout the year and for many years,” said Pérez. “Max really deserves this Championship with the level he has driven at.
“I’m very happy to contribute to his title, he’s been a tremendous team-mate and a great guy, I couldn’t be happier for him. Lewis was in control of the race and Max was 10 seconds or so behind so I am extremely happy I could do something to help the outcome.
“I was on extremely old tyres so there was not much I could do but I managed to take a couple of seconds of out of Lewis, which was critical and had an impact on the race. You don’t want to get involved in their Championship and their battle, they’ve worked so hard for to be in this moment, but this is my Team, I did that for my Team and for Max.”
Pérez believes that had he kept going until the end of the race, he could have followed Verstappen through to pass Hamilton for second place, but an engine concern from the pit wall saw him retire with just a handful of laps remaining to ensure the safety car was not out longer than it needed to be.
“I think finishing second was possible for me today with the way the race ended up concluding, but I had to retire because my car was not looking great and it could have ended up creating another safety car,” he said.
“It’s a shame in the end that we didn’t get the Constructions title, but I’m extremely happy with the job we’ve done this season.“