Max Verstappen admitted that he had no intention of taking it easy on Sergio Perez when the Mexican driver joins him at Red Bull this season.
Since he made his Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso in 2015, Verstappen has seen off the challenge of some strong team mates including Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and most recently Alex Albon.
All four of his former team mates have subsequently praised Verstappen's skill and talent behind the wheel, which he took with typical humility.
“Well they can’t get around it can they?” Verstappen said in an interview with Dutch television channel Ziggo Sport. "I beat all of them anyway, so that’s good."
The in-form and experienced Perez - who took his maiden F1 victory at Sakhir last month - represents a new type of threat to the Dutch driver's seemingly inexorable rise to the top of the sport. But Verstappen insists that his approach remains the same.
"As my father always says, you have to destroy your teammate!” he revealed, quickly confirming that he intended do to the same with Perez. “Yeah, that’s right, that’s my target.
“It’s always important to be faster than your team-mate," he continued. "I know that Sergio is aiming for the same."
Verstappen added that he hoped Perez would prove strong and consistent enough to contribute to the team's overall campaign in a way that's been lacking with some of the more recent second drivers.
"It’s the only way to bring the team forward with both cars, as was the case at Red Bull with Daniel," he stated.
The selection of Perez - who lost his seat at Racing Point despite putting in his best season in F1 to date - is a change of approach for Red Bull which usually takes recruits from its young driver programme headed by Dr Helmut Marko.
But with Albon unable to close the gap to Verstappen over the season, Marko accepted that it had been necessary for the team to look further afield if it hopes to challenge the pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes.
"Sometimes Albon was up to six tenths away from Verstappen, and you can't win a world championship like that," he told Auto Motor und Sport. "The lack of consistency was the decisive factor,
“We’ll only know how good our driver pairing is compared to Hamilton-Bottas once [Perez] gets in our car,” he commented. "Performance, responsiveness, driveability — he can give a lot of input.
"Perez’ form curve in the second half of last year was a steep upward trend," Marko noted. "He always puts himself in a good position and has a good feel for the car and the race.
Marko hinted that Nico Hulkenberg - who subbed for a coronavirus-hit Perez at Racing Point for the Silverstone double header - had been another candidate to replace Albon.
“Perez was able to prove himself throughout the season, which was not the case with Hulkenberg,” he commented.