Sergio Perez has been left feeling "very proud" of Max Verstappen's drive to the title in 2022, despite missing out on fighting for the championship himself.
After a difficult start to the season for Red Bull – in which they suffered reliability issues during the opening races – the team bounced back as the campaign progressed, with Perez looking particularly strong after winning the Monaco Grand Prix.
However, despite seeming to be on course to battle with Verstappen, Perez's own title bid slipped away as the Dutchman became increasingly dominant throughout the rest of the season.
This culminated in Verstappen clinching his second World Championship at the shortened Japanese Grand Prix, while Perez finished the race in P2, having been promoted due to second-placed Charles Leclerc being handed a five-second time penalty for cutting a chicane on the final lap as he tried to hold off Perez.
Perez reacts to Verstappen's 2022 title win
Speaking after the race, Perez admitted that he had been left impressed by Verstappen's development as a driver during 2022.
"I am very proud of what Max has done this season; he has stepped up as a driver," Perez explained.
"I was fighting with him in the beginning but then halfway through the year he moved into another gear, the way he drove in some races was unbelievable."
The Mexican was pleased to see his teammate secure the championship at Suzuka, the home race of Red Bull's partner, Honda.
"It is a massive day for the team, to do this in Japan in front on Honda and with a 1-2 is incredible," he added.
"Hopefully soon we are able to secure the Constructors' Championship for our team, that will be massive. I am massively looking forward to the rest of the year."
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Leclerc battle in Japan a "fantastic fight"
Reflecting on the Grand Prix – which was delayed by two hours due to rain before resuming for 28 laps – Perez particularly enjoyed his battle with Leclerc in the closing stages of the event.
"It was a great battle with Charles today," the four-time race winner said.
"It was nice that we got to race because at one point we though we wouldn't get to. It was a fantastic fight and we were pushing him hard towards the end, it was so difficult to overtake without DRS [Drag Reduction System] but I kept the pressure on.
"He made the mistake and he got the penalty to give me P2."
Perez has now moved up to second in the World Championship standings, with an advantage of just one point over Leclerc.
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