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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Daniel Moxon

David Croft reveals private chat with Sergio Perez's race engineer about Max Verstappen

Sergio Perez took victory at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix – but would he have beaten Max Verstappen in a straight shootout on the day?

According to his race engineer Hugh Bird, yes he would. That message was relayed by Formula 1 commentator David Croft, who told Sky Sports viewers of a private chat he and fellow presenter Karun Chandhok had with the Red Bull employee while travelling from Baku to Miami.

Perez won the race over Verstappen in second place, but the Dutchman did have his race strategy ruined by an unfortunately timed safety car. He had only just pitted for fresh tyres when the yellow flags began to wave, meaning most others were able to make a cheap stop.

That included Perez, who came back out of the pit lane in the lead with fresh rubber. Known for his excellent tyre management, he was able to look after them well while keeping the Dutchman at arm's length to take the chequered flag.

Had it not been for that safety car, Perez would have had to have overtaken his team-mate on the track to get the win. Speaking to Croft and Chandhok, Verstappen's former race engineer Bird, who now works with the Mexican, was apparently certain that he would have managed it.

"It's a really good question, actually, because he was gaining – before the safety car – on Max Verstappen and we know that he is the tyre whisperer," Croft told Sky reporter Craig Slater when asked if he felt Perez would have won without that stroke of luck. "He nurses those rear tyres which is a very good way to try to win on the streets of Baku.

"Karun Chandhok and myself had a chat with Hugh Bird on the way back from Baku – Hugh is Sergio Perez's race engineer – and we said, 'We lost out on a battle with Max and Sergio'.

"[The reply was], 'Nah, there wouldn't have been a battle. He'd have caught him and he'd have got him'. He was absolutely convinced that Sergio would have managed to get past Max and, in the second stint of a one-stop race, would have gone on to extend that lead."

Meanwhile, in Miami this weekend – and in the overall title race – Red Bull's Helmut Marko can only see one winner. "There, I see Max in front again," said the 80-year-old. "In qualifying, as in Baku, [Charles] Leclerc could be fast, [but] the race should be ours again. And I'm sticking to my guns – over the season, Max Verstappen is the man, he's the more consistent one."

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