Sergio Perez has declared himself ready to challenge Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen for this year’s F1 title.
Perez moved to within 34 points of Verstappen on Sunday after battling to finish runner-up in the British Grand Prix, while the Dutch driver limped home seventh due to floor damage on his RB18.
The Mexican, who has won one race – the Monaco Grand Prix – and finished second four times in the opening 10 races, has confirmed team principal Christian Horner has backed both drivers to fight it out for themselves.
“We are free to race," said Perez. "We want to do the best possible for each of us, that’s how it is."
Asked whether that could lead to a collision, he added: “They don’t want us to crash and we don’t want to crash.
"We have a very good level of respect for each other and I cannot see us crashing into each other.
“I want to beat Max, that’s no secret. But I also want the whole Red Bull team to do great.
"If Max wins it’s not great for my championship hopes but at the end of the day I am still happy because it’s my team.”
Perez seeking car improvements ahead of battle
Perez joined Red Bull last season and struggled to match Verstappen in his first year at the team but new regulations have helped put him in the running with a car that better suits his driving style.
The 32-year-old revealed, however, that the car’s development has changed since the Canadian Grand Prix which has affected the situation on his side of the garage.
He explained: “I have some work to do to understand what’s going on and hopefully have a more straightforward weekend here in Austria.
“It’s just going away from me in terms of how comfortable I was in the beginning, but saying that I have had only two races and last weekend I wasn’t up to it. I was feeling pretty bad, so this is the first weekend where I will see it really.”
Red Bull has experienced reliability issues this season, with both cars going out in the opening race and both posting one more DNF since. Perez hopes the issues are now fixed and that it is not reliability that decides the title race.
Perez added: “I think having another couple of zeroes, it will kill the championship for sure, but hopefully the reliability issues are gone now and we are able to finish races. That’s the most important.”