Formula 1 veteran and former Red Bull associate Gerhard Berger believes Sergio Perez should think about switching teams.
While the 33-year-old Mexican driver has a contract extending through 2024, his performance has dipped lately, sparking speculation that Red Bull might want to renegotiate the terms.
Berger, once a part-owner of Red Bull’s junior Formula 1 squad and among the inaugural athletes to be sponsored by the energy drink brand, concedes that Perez’s dilemma is symptomatic of a larger issue in F1—the unassailable prowess of Max Verstappen.
“If there was a real rival for Max, the gap he has might be a little smaller. But it’s still Max and the car making the difference,” he informed Speed Week.
“Verstappen is simply in a class of its own. The lead is so glaring that others only come closer on a day when they themselves get a bullseye on the setup and Red Bull is not ideally positioned for once.
“But even then, Max is still pulling it out of the bag.”
Berger attributes this to the shortcomings of Red Bull’s conventional arch-competitors like Mercedes and Ferrari.
“McLaren is currently the second force,” he revealed. “The development of that car is really taking effect now.
“Mercedes is also not as bad as they looked at Zandvoort because of the strategy. But you also have to recognise the performance of the drivers.
“The young (Lando) Norris and (Oscar) Piastri at McLaren are top people,” Berger added.
He also shared his thoughts on the waning performance of Ferrari, a team he drove for in two different periods during the 80s and 90s.
“You have to be fair, because it’s difficult to judge what is happening from the outside,” observed the 64-year-old. “But I do think Ferrari was technically better off last year compared to 2023.
“It’s unfortunate that they didn’t try to keep Mattia Binotto, perhaps as technical director, with Fred Vasseur just given the sporting leadership.”
On the topic of Perez, Berger, whose daughter Heidi is presently in a relationship with 2024 hopeful Daniel Ricciardo, offers some counsel.
“With Perez it’s not a mental problem or anything like that. He’s a normal driver, a good driver, with a teammate who is an exceptional talent.
“If Sergio is intelligent, he will find himself another team where he can break the deadlock and show his performance there. But he will never be able to consistently beat Max,” Berger stated.
Berger believes that Verstappen’s talent rivals that of his own former McLaren teammate – Ayrton Senna.
“That’s why nobody will be able to get ahead of Max at the moment,” Berger explained. “Talent like that comes along maybe every 30 years.
“The boys who are catching my eye are Piastri, Norris and (George) Russell too.”
Berger didn’t miss the opportunity to mention the impressive work by Alex Albon and Daniel Ricciardo’s temporary replacement at Alpha Tauri, Liam Lawson.
“I am pleased that it has been shown that you can also move up to Formula 1 via the DTM,” Berger remarked.
“Alex is doing a great job at Williams. Liam Lawson has now had his first chance at Alpha Tauri, but he was thrown into the deep end of course.
“He ended up right in the middle of the race with a strategy that wasn’t quite right. He deserves a real chance now.”