Former F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen says Sergio Perez's role within Red Bull is that of a 'naughty' driver.
Since joining Red Bull in 2021, Perez has largely played second fiddle to teammate Max Verstappen, who has won the last two Drivers' Championships, and Hakkinen noted that the Mexican appeared willing to follow team orders that would favour Verstappen.
"Perez is a good teammate," Hakkinen told Unibet.
"He's allowed to be the naughty one. He seems to be very obedient.
"What I mean by being naughty is that sometimes the team asks him to do things such as slowing others down. Sergio doesn't care. He'll slow them down if the team wants.
"Whether it's [qualifying] or the race, he'll do what he's asked to do. I think it's dirty, but if it works, it works."
During the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Perez notably held up Lewis Hamilton for several laps to allow Verstappen to close up on the Briton – a move that would ultimately have a significant bearing on the outcome of the championship, as Hamilton was unable to pit for fresh tyres late in the race without losing track position, leaving him vulnerable to a freshly-shod Verstappen’s last-lap lunge.
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'It takes something supernatural to beat Max' - Hakkinen
Verstappen heads into 2023 seeking a hat-trick of championship wins, with Red Bull looking quick and reliable throughout the three days of pre-season testing at Bahrain.
With further title glory for Verstappen looking a distinct possibility, Hakkinen hailed the Dutchman as the quickest driver currently in F1.
"Is there currently someone faster than [Verstappen] on the track? I doubt it. I don't think there is," said Hakkinen.
"The championships have reinforced his self-confidence. He knows better how to prepare for the season. He's still young. The team believes in him 100%.
"Max is in really good form. It takes something almost supernatural to beat Max."
Ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, RacingNews365.com journalists Dieter Rencken and Michael Butterworth analyse where each of the F1 teams stands after pre-season testing.