With a little over 5 weeks until the 2023 Formula one cars hit the circuit for testing in Bahrain, pre-season activity within the teams is building to a crescendo. In Milton Keynes the world champions are putting the finishing touches to the RB19 however ex-F1 Red Bull driver David Coulthard claims that Sergio Perez needs a full “software update” before he hits the track in anger.
In what many would describe as a sense of entitlement, Perez asked the team to manufacture a win for him at his home race in Mexico City. Sergio appeared to believe that given the team had claimed the constructors’ title along with Verstappen’s F1 drivers’ championship the team would be prepared to manipulate the 2022 Mexican GP in his favour.
Perez requests team help him win home GP
Perez’s request went down like a lead balloon with Verstappen who believes Formula One pole positions, race wins and titles should be hard earned and not a matter of grace and favour. This was emphasised at the next race in Brazil when the Dutchman was asked by his engineer to allow Checo through on the last lap for just a P6 finish. Perez was battling at the time with Charles LeClerc for P2 in the drivers’ title race.
Having ignored the instruction from the team to allow Checo through, Verstappen was asked following there chequered flag, “what happened?”
“I told you already last time, the guys are not to ask that to me again, are we clear about that?” Verstappen said. “I gave my reason and I stand by it.”
Verstappen indignant over Perez request
Whilst coded at the time, the paddock sniffer dogs believe this now refers to the previous outing in Mexico when it was suggested Max help Sergio to win his home race.
Channel 4 pundit David Coulthard believes Sergio Perez should be looking over his shoulder. Given Verstappen claimed 15 victories in 2022 in the same car Checo managed just 2 race wins, Coulthard says the Mexican driver needs to up his game or risk losing his drive with the Red Bull team.
Further, the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo as the third F1 driver in Milton Keynes puts additional pressure on Perez given there’s a proven F1 race winner ready to replace him.
Perez ‘not good enough’
“Checo (Perez) will see that there is a real substitute driver there,” Coulthard noted of the Australian’s return to the home team of his junior racing years. The Scottish ex-F1 driver believes Perez’s destiny is “in his own hands”.
“For Checo to look at how many victories Max had and how many he had, it’s not like he is just having to polish a few corners. This is a major rewrite, a software update,” he said.
“If you use the same ingredients in the cake you will get the the same cake. You need to change it if you want something different.
“He has access to the data of the world champion. He can see where he’s quicker, where he’s slower. Checo will be quicker in some areas. It’s just Max is putting it all together more often than not.
“All the knowledge is there for Checo to lift his performance. If he does then the world championship is there for him to put his hand on.
Whilst Checo has been the most competitive of team mates Verstappen has faced since Ricciardo’s departure from Red Bull, his qualifying and race deficits to Verstappen are astonishingly large.
Ricciardo a real threat to Perez
Coulthard believes Ricciardo has returned to Milton Keynes hoping for a rebuild in his confidence. His 7 race wins for the team before his departure in 2019 suggested Ricciardo was a potential world champion of the future. Yet his turgid 2 seasons at McLaren have led to questions from F1 observers as to whether Daniel Ricciardo is washed up.
“Daniel, not being where we knew he could be – he just didn’t look like Daniel of old so this is about him trying to rebuild,” Coulthard said.
“He has a great legacy with Red Bull and he left to go off and try and make it big elsewhere, that didn’t work so he has come back to the family.
“If he can get his mind back to what is was when he was having success, then Daniel has to have an opportunity to come back. If this opportunity doesn’t manifest itself then that’s probably his grand prix career wrapped up.”
Perez must “leave no stone unturned”
Clearly Coulthard believes Perez should consider himself ‘at risk’ from Ricciardo unless he improves his performance relative to his team mate.
Speaking at a Red Bull event in Dublin today, Coulthard drew comparisons with his time at McLaren when his team mate was double world champion Mika Hakkinen and also Kimi Raikkonen.
“Having been in a similar situation to Sergio where I was up against Mika and Kimi, you just have to leave no stone unturned,” Coulthard said.
“You do physical training but the only way he can improve his qualifying speed is in the car or in the simulator.
“In nine years at McLaren, I did every test and never missed a race, even when I felt terrible, even when I felt like I was going to be sick after testing, because I knew the minute I let the test driver get in the car it became an opportunity to show how good he was.
“If I don’t let him get in the car he can talk all day long. You have to defend your territory.”
RB19 may suit Verstappen more than Perez
As Red Bull developed the RB18 during the 2022 season away from the initial understeering characteristics, Perez appeared to suffer relative to Max Verstappen who prefers a car that oversteers.
The early part of this year will be crucial for Perez to prove he can run closer to Verstappen or suffer the indignity of being replaced by Daniel Ricciardo.