Christian Horner has refuted Sergio Perez's claims of feeling like Red Bull only raced a second car 'because they had to' when he first joined the team.
Speaking to media ahead to the Australian Grand Prix, Perez was talking about how he intends to bring a title challenge to Max Verstappen for an internal Red Bull fight, revealing how he felt the Milton Keynes-based squad only raced a second car because the rules dictated so.
"I fully believe… certainly when I came to the team, things were very different," he told media, including PlanetF1.com, on Thursday in Melbourne.
Additional reporting by Michael Lamonato
"Basically, they 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 and am well-respected.
"That's something good to have as a driver and I really believe that I have the full support of the team as much as Max does and I will have every single opportunity to win the Championship as much as he does."
Perez's suggestion that Red Bull were a one-car outfit, perhaps not paying the same attention to the cars driven by himself and predecessors Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly, have been flatly denied by his boss Christian Horner.
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Asked about his drivers' comments, Horner praised Perez for the progress he's made at Red Bull since joining the team at the conclusion of the 2020 season.
"We always have run two cars since we entered the sport in 2005 and we always want to have the best two drivers that we can in the car," Horner said.
"I think it's great to see Checo [Perez] doing certainly a great job now.
"In '21, he came into the car off the back of the COVID season and at the end of a set of regulations, and he struggled with that car.
"Last year, he was definitely more at home within the car and he put in two of our 17 victories achieved. And he's got out of the blocks well again this year, but we're only two races into the season and there's an awful long, long way to go.
"As a team, we've always strived to give both drivers the best opportunity and the best equipment we can. And then it's down to what they do on track and that's whether it's Max and Checo, or Daniel and Max, or Daniel and Seb, Mark and Seb or even going back – David Coulthard and Mark Webber. So that's the way we've always rolled and it's down to what they do on the circuit at the end of the day that counts."
Christian Horner: Sergio Perez's confidence is exactly what Red Bull want
With the two Red Bull drivers separated by a solitary point – in Verstappen's favour – the team have scored 87 out of a maximum 88 points in the Constructors' Championship. Given that the first two races suggested the Drivers' Championship will be contested only by his drivers, Horner said that 2023-vintage Perez is the strongest he's seen at Red Bull so far.
"In a sample of two races, yes," he said.
"I mean, he drove some great races last year. You only have to think back to Singapore, for example, which was an outstanding victory for Checo last season. But, you know, he's done a great job in the first two races this year, his confidence is sky high, and that's exactly what we want. We want two drivers that are going to be pushing and challenging each other."
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