Sergio Perez
Cheered on: Red Bull's Mexican driver Sergio Perez racing in front of his home fans ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP

Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner may have a problem in his hands in 2023 if his drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez end up fighting against each other. The team will want to defend both the Drivers' and Constructors' World Championship Titles, but it seems as though Verstappen will need to watch his back from the threat on the other side of the garage.

Sergio Perez is seen by the entire paddock as Red Bull's second driver who was hired to support the Dutchman's bid for titles. However, the Mexican has made it clear that while he has always been a supportive team player, he will no longer roll over for his teammate this season especially if he does not receive the same support.

Perez joined Red Bull in 2021 in a shock move after losing his seat in Racing Point when the team was taken over by Aston Martin. In his first season with Red Bull, he was hailed numerous times for being the perfect team player.

Verstappen also praised his teammate, most notably when Perez played a key role in holding back Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton several times during a tightly contested world championship battle.

In 2022, Perez was again helpful and willingly obeyed orders whenever Verstappen needed assistance. However, things turned sour in Brazil when the Dutchman refused to do the same.

Verstappen had already been crowned world champion weeks before, but Perez was battling Ferrari's Charles Leclerc for second place in the championship standings. Perez moved out of sixth place earlier in the race to allow Verstappen the chance to challenge Fernando Alonso's Alpine.

Towards the closing stages of the race, it became clear that Verstappen would not be able to catch the Spaniard, and was told by the team to hand the place back to his teammate. Perez was clearly upset when Verstappen refused to let him pass to finish in a higher position and gain more valuable points and close in on Leclerc.

Perez eventually ended up third in the championship, although the points he would have gained if Verstappen let him through would not have been enough to secure second place. Nevertheless, the relationship between the two may have been permanently dented. At that time, Perez said he was "disappointed" and "surprised" after all that he had done for his teammate.

The team assured that they all sat down to speak about what happened and Verstappen was justified in his decision. However, Perez does not appear to have forgotten the incident while speaking to Fox Sports Mexico.

"It's always important to work as a team and obviously if I see that I don't receive support when I need it, I won't give it either," he said, clearly firing a warning to his teammate.

However, he still confirmed that he wants the team to work together. "I think we are very clear about the important thing, it will be a very intense season surely, with six cars fighting for the championship, so it will be very important to work as a team in many races."

The Red Bulls are the clear favourites this season after a good showing at pre-season testing. While Verstappen is the defending champion, Perez seems determined to prove what he can really do. "Without a doubt this year will determine many things: how good I am, how much I want to continue in the sport, without a doubt, it is a crucial year in my career," he said.

Perez also spoke up about finding motivation to continue in the sport. "I don't see don't see myself being here at 90 percent," he said.

The Mexican topped the time sheets on Day 3 of testing in Bahrain last week, with Verstappen topping Day 1. The two Red Bulls will likely be fighting up front for most of the season, but they will need to work together to fend off Ferrari and a resurgence from Mercedes.