By Alan Baldwin
(Reuters) -Sergio Perez said he was sure Red Bull want him to win his home Mexico City Grand Prix after facing questions on Thursday about whether they would let him beat championship-leading team mate Max Verstappen.
Verstappen is 12 points clear of Mercedes’ seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton with five races remaining, including Sunday’s, in one of the closest title battles in years.
Asked what might happen if he were leading with Verstappen in second place, and whether he would move aside, Perez said it would be a great problem to have.
“It always depends on the situation,” he added. “Most of the decisions are normally taken during the race, during the heat of the event.
“I think that depending on the circumstances we’ll see. But I’m pretty sure that the whole team, Red Bull, everyone wants me to win this weekend…I’m sure I have full support from everyone in my team.”
The only Mexican on the starting grid is out of title contention but has won twice in the past year.
He has also stood on the podium in his last two races and has never been closer to his dream of becoming the first Mexican to win at home.
Red Bull have won nine races this season, Verstappen taking eight of them with Perez triumphant in Azerbaijan in June after the Dutch 24-year-old crashed out with a tyre failure while leading.
Hamilton said he considered the high-altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez “a Red Bull track”, even if Mercedes could still be strong.
McLaren’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo, Verstappen’s former Red Bull team mate who sat alongside Perez for the media call, gave the Mexican his support.
“I want you to win as well,” he told him.
Ricciardo said he would not want to move aside for a team mate at his home race in Melbourne if he was in with a chance of victory.
“Right now, my answer’s no. I would not,” he said. “If it was the last race of the season and that position swap literally meant the world title or not, then maybe that’s a more complex decision-making process.
“But a home win, that’s like the thing that you dream of as a kid. And if obviously you’ve earned it on track then I feel like it should be yours for the taking.”
Four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel, who won his titles with Red Bull between 2010-13 and now drives for Aston Martin, felt Perez should be allowed to win if given the chance.
“Even if maybe the situation is logically very easy to explain, I still think it’s bad and I would be in favour of not having any team orders, ever,” said the German of the likelihood of Red Bull telling Perez to cede position.
“I think it’s just dull. Nobody likes it. If Checo (Perez) happens to be ahead, then Checo should stay ahead.
“But I can also see if that’s not happening and he will have to let Max by, then yeah. Valtteri (Bottas, Hamilton’s team mate) has been in that position and it’s not nice.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ken Ferris and Ed Osmond)