Marko pays Perez the ultimate compliment: 'He was as fast as Verstappen'

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Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko gave Sergio Perez perhaps the highest compliment he can give, claiming he was "just as fast" as Max Verstappen in Bahrain.

It was a tricky first race at the team for the Mexican as he was knocked out in Q2 in qualifying, and then started the race from the pitlane after his car shut down on the formation lap.

But after coming from last to win on the Outer Circuit at Sakhir last December, Perez put in another brilliant recovery from P20 to P5, delighting Marko.

“He was sensational," he told RTL on how he responded to the early dramas.

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“It was the first race of the year, so it was mainly about getting used to it for him. But when Perez had free air he was just as fast as Verstappen.

"If Perez had started from fourth or fifth on the medium tyre he could have given Valtteri Bottas a hard time."

The single-lap pace will come for Checo as he continues to adapt to the RB16B, and he is confident that as the year progresses, he will give Verstappen a harder time.

“Basically, I want to beat Max and Max wants to beat me, and that’s just to the benefit of the team,” he said.

“We want to push the team forwards, and if we are able to create that competition between us, that will just be to the benefit of the team.

“I think we are both very mature, and we’ve been here long enough to cope with that.

“And yeah, I just hope that I’m able to put the pressure on to Max and that we can both grow together and push the team forward.”