Red Bull team boss Christian Horner says the side must investigate why Sergio Perez was blown away by Max Verstappen beyond the first stint in the Belgian Grand Prix.

While Verstappen claimed pole position by a huge 0.8s over the competition on Friday, the reigning World Champion was demoted five places on the grid for a gearbox change.

That promoted Perez to the front row and the Mexican immediately swooped into the lead on the opening lap with a pass on Charles Leclerc down the Kemmel Straight.

However, Verstappen seized first place on Lap 17 and advanced unopposed to an eighth consecutive victory, leaving him one shy of Sebastian Vettel’s all-time record.

Verstappen, who triumphed from 14th in Belgium last year, also matched Fernando Alonso’s benchmark for the most wins achieved from different starting positions.

“I’m surprised it took him so long to get to the front, to be honest with you! No, honestly, all jokes aside, I thought he drove an incredible race today,” Horner expressed.

“His pace obviously in the first stint, passing the cars that he did, he did a great job to get up to P2, and then after the stop, his race really came alive on the Medium tyre. I thought he showed incredible speed.

“Checo obviously didn’t defend too hard because of the speed difference between the two of them, and thereafter, it was about managing the rest of the race.

“So phenomenal to go into the summer break unbeaten in both grands prix and sprints. I think it’s beyond everybody’s wildest imagination to be sitting in this position now.”

Although Perez was able to deny Verstappen closing to within DRS range during the opening stint of the race on the Soft tyre, the Mexican was powerless to hold his team-mate back on the Medium compound.

Even with the two Red Bull drivers switching back to the Soft for their respective final stints, Verstappen progressed to inflict a demoralising 22s defeat on his team-mate.

“The first stint was pretty good,” Horner said regarding Perez’s race. “I think the Medium tyre, Checo definitely wasn’t as comfortable as Max was.

“And then on the Soft tyre at the end, it was about managing the tyre, we were a little worried the tyres you could see they were starting to open up a bit. It was then about closing out the race.”

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB19 leads team mate Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB19. 30.07.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 13, Belgian Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, Belgium, Race Day.

Having also converted pole position into victory in the Sprint Race on Saturday, Verstappen now upholds a commanding 125-point advantage over Perez at the top of the Drivers’ Championship.

Asked to explain the reasons behind Verstappen’s recent superiority over Perez, Horner remarked: “I think his level of superiority over everybody at the moment.”

“I think that generally, it’s been outstanding,” he continued. “I think what we’re witnessing with Max at the moment is something you see once in a generation.

“Checo did a great job on the first lap, overtook Charles with a brave move around the outside. Had strong pace in the first stint.

“But then we need to go through why he comparatively struggled on the Medium tyre.”

Horner believes that Verstappen’s ability to read a race in its entirety has firmly cemented his place among the greats in Formula 1 history at only 25 years of age.

“I think like all the great drivers, he just has that extra capacity,” he explained.

“What we’re witnessing and seeing with him at the moment is his ability to read the tire, to read a race, extract absolutely everything out of it. It’s great to see. I think he’s just at the top of his form at the moment.”

Verstappen, though, was denied the feat of extracting maximum points for the fourth consecutive race weekend by Lewis Hamilton’s late pit stop for a change of tyres.

The two-time World Champion was heard asking about the potential to make a late dart into the pits himself over the team radio – a request that was turned away.

Horner asserts that Verstappen was denied the opportunity to secure the bonus point as Red Bull didn’t want to run the risk of compromising its first 1-2 finish since the Miami Grand Prix in early May.

“No, that’s why we didn’t take the stop, because we didn’t want to get too greedy,” he added.

“We won the Sprint Race yesterday. A 1-2 finish today. We didn’t want to end up with egg on our face, compromising that in any way.

“So to give away one point, I don’t think anybody will lose too much sleep over tonight.”

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