Red Bull has been so much quicker than the rest of the competition in the early part of the season that many believe any potential title race will take place between its own drivers.
While Sergio Perez spent much of last season playing second fiddle to Max Verstappen, there is very little that separates them this season.
Max will still enter the Australian Grand Prix at the top of the standings after picking up a crucial bonus point for fastest lap in somewhat controversial manner, but there is little doubt that Sergio also looks far better equipped to stand up to the challenge this year.
The Mexican driver even expressed his intention of challenging Verstappen for the title, claiming he was intent on getting the better of the Dutchman.
Wonder why Checo tweeted, deleted, then tweeted again about his victory… but on the 2nd version he deleted the statement:— FormulaNerds 🤓🏁 (@Formula_Nerds) March 21, 2023
“I want to be a champion” #F1 #checoperez #RedBullRacing #SaudiArabianGP pic.twitter.com/KRgqnvGgW6
“It was tougher than I thought, but in the end I’m happy to get my fifth victory in F1,” Perez said.
“Very happy with the result of the team. We are going to keep pushing very hard. I want to be champion.”
While this may be seen as a bold declaration coming from a driver who has traditionally been seen as the team’s wingman to Verstappen, the courage soon seemed to leave Perez as he took it down.
However, he soon wrote another tweet that was almost identical to his first, barring the final line.
It was, after all, the last line that had all the punch and drama.
In many ways, it was a line that signalled his intent to push Max to the limit and go all out in his pursuit to win a maiden world championship.
While Verstappen enjoyed a great race after suffering a driveshaft failure that relegated him to a P15 start, he still left the track looking far from pleased.
The 25-year-old had dominated all the practice sessions and although he did manage to win a bonus point for fastest lap in the last lap of the race, he felt it was still a case of points lost rather than gained.
“It’s not only about the pace of the car, we need to make sure we are reliable without any issues,” Verstappen said after the race.
“My first weekend was not very clean because of just the big balance shift from testing to the race weekend, some other things which were going on in the background.
“Now again, after three positive practice sessions, I have an issue in qualifying.
“Of course, I recovered to second which is good. In general the whole feeling in the team, everyone is happy – but personally I’m not happy because I’m not here to be second.
“Especially when you are working very hard back at the factory, to make sure you arrive here in a good state, and making sure everything is spot on. Then you have to do the recovery race.
“I don’t mind doing it, but when you are fighting for a championship, when it looks like it’s just between two cars, you have to make sure those two cars are reliable.
“We have to do better, absolutely. Just to have a cleaner weekend, I think that would be nice.”