F1: Sergio Perez responds to Jos Verstappen ‘rift’ after handshake ‘snub’ footage
Sergio Perez said he has patched up his differences with Formula One title rival Max Verstappen's father following his victory snub in Saudi Arabia.
Perez heads into the third round of the F1 season, the Australian Grand Prix, just one point behind his teammate in the standings, and is effectively Verstappen's sole championship challenger given the dominance of Red Bull's machinery this season.
A fortnight ago in Jeddah, Jos Verstappen sparked a social media storm when he kept a straight face and failed to offer a congratulatory handshake to Perez as the Mexican celebrated with his Red Bull mechanics.
Max Verstappen finished runner-up to Perez after he started 15th following a driveshaft failure in qualifying.
The footage portrayed a divided Red Bull camp, but speaking to the PA news agency, Perez insisted: “I have a good relationship with Jos. We respect each other. We know this is sport, and that is how we treat it.
“We shook hands but they probably didn't show that. I saw a few things were written on social media, but sometimes people like to create stories that don't exist. He wasn't smiling much but you don't have to smile every day and all the time.
“I drive cars, I work hard with my team but I have a life out of the sport and once I am out of this paddock I am totally out of this environment. It is important to be able to disconnect because it is a waste of time if you keep tracking all the rumours.”
Perez's win in Saudi Arabia, the fifth of his career, provided some hope that Verstappen will not cruise to a hat-trick of titles.
“I want to be a world champion,” read a tweet on Perez's account in the aftermath of his victory only for the post to be deleted and then reposted without stating his title ambitions.
“As you can imagine, I don't manage my social media at all times," said Perez. But presumably he wants to become champion of the world? “Of course,” he replied. “That is clear.”
Standing in Perez's way is Verstappen. The Dutch driver won 15 times last year. Perez, in identical machinery, claimed just two victories in a team perceived to be built around the Dutchman.
But does Verstappen have any weaknesses that Perez can exploit?
“I don't think there is anyone out there that is perfect," answered Perez, 33. "We are all human beings and we all have ups-and-downs.
“But there is no other driver in such good form as Max. I am aware of that and that is why I need to bring my A-game every single week.”
Additional reporting by PA.