Max Verstappen: I was running on one lung in Saudi Arabia
Max Verstappen says he was operating on only “one lung” in Saudi Arabia two weekends ago, so wiped out was he by a virus.
The double world champion, speaking ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, added he was not yet completely over his illness and would need the upcoming three-week break to fully recover.
Verstappen’s comments in the Melbourne paddock were followed by some punchy talk from his team-mate Sergio Perez who said he had renewed belief he could win the world title this season with Red Bull going about things in a “very different” way to when he first joined, when the Mexican says they “only went racing with two cars because they had to”.
Perez moved to within a point of Verstappen following his win in Saudi Arabia last time out. And while there are still 21 races remaining, the 33 year-old agreed this was “the big moment, the big opportunity of his career” to claim the world title, with Red Bull utterly dominant and the team seemingly giving their drivers equal treatment.
“When I came to the team, things were very different,” said Perez who joined Red Bull in 2021. “Basically they [Red Bull] were just going racing with two cars because they had to. I can say now that I really feel part of the team, I really feel like I have my place well respected. And I think that’s something good to have as a driver.
“I really believe that I have full support of the team as much as Max does and that I will have every single opportunity to win the championship as much as Max.”
Verstappen, speaking earlier on, said he needed two laps of recovery during first practice in Jeddah just to “breathe normally” such were the lingering effects of his illness, which forced him to delay his flight out to Saudi Arabia. “At home I was really ill, I could barely just walk around. I felt like I was missing a lung,” he said, adding he would still not be at 100 per cent this weekend.
“For me now this three weeks is just for getting back to full fitness and getting a full [training] programme in,” he said of the lengthy break, which comes due to the cancellation of the Chinese Grand Prix.
That will be music to the ears of Perez. The Mexican famously fell out with his younger teammate last year following a crash in qualifying at Monaco, which the Verstappen camp felt Perez did on purpose to secure a better grid position. And Perez acknowledged things could get very “tense” between himself and his teammate if he kept up his challenge. But he insisted there was “a lot more respect [between them] than people might think” and said he was prepared for the tension.
“If I want to win the championship, I have to beat Max weekend-in, weekend-out and keep this level of consistency throughout the season,” he said. “I think we re both mature enough to know what's right and what's wrong. As long as that keeps being the case, I don't expect anything to change.”