Sergio Perez came into the 2023 season brimming with confidence and talking about winning a Formula One drivers’ world championship. After the first two rounds Checo was a single point behind his team mate and had won the fifth F1 race of his career.
Yet despite picking up another win in Baku the wheels began to fall off the Mexican’s wagon during qualifying in Australia and while he started the race from the pit lane he did recover to finish in fifth place.
Perez contradicts his team
Even after the chequered flag fell at the Miami Grand Prix Sergio was just 14 points behind Max Verstappen and talking up his chances of the claiming the title once more.
Asked by Sky Sports about his title chances, and how much he believes in them, Perez replied: “I think, having three kids at home, I wouldn’t be travelling around the world if I didn’t believe that I can be a world champion.
Perez contradicts Red Bull claiming that his off in qualifying one in Melbourne was caused by faulty machinery but Christian Horner asserted the problem with the balance Sergio complained about was in fact “something that they control in the car.
“I think we had a bit of the engine running on in P3, but the levels that we saw in qualifying were nothing abnormal.”
Marko says Perez “insecure and impetuous”
Helmut Marko was more direct in his opinion stating he felt Perez was “insecure and impetuous” adding the earlier mechanical “problems were actually gone from practice.”
Then came Monaco which for Sergio should have been a Stella moment of his year. As defending champion and recently named “the king of the street circuits” the stars were aligned for a resurgence in Sergio’s championship battle with Max.
Yet another “stupid” mistake as Helmut Marko described it saw Checo out of qualifying just minutes into the first session after over running turn 1 and smashing his car into the barrier.
Perez race was equally as tragic as he collided with two other cars, required two new front wings and hit the barrier on numerous occasions. He is no 39 points behind his team mate after the first six rounds of 2023.
Words of solace from Brundle
Writing in his Sky Sports column Martin Brundle had some words of solace for Checo.
“It is still easy enough to crash of course [in Monaco] and the driver who suffered most was last year’s winner and street circuit specialist Sergio Perez.
“Early into the first part of qualifying he simply arrived too quickly into Saint Devote Turn One and smashed into the outside barrier.
“He’d likely been a little distracted by an Alpine getting out of his way by diving into the long pit-lane exit, but whatever the reason it put a huge dent in his Red Bull car and his championship battle with team-mate Max Verstappen.”
Checo has to “maximise”
However Brundle believes Perez needs to face reality and accept the genius that is his team mate Max Verstappen.
The world champion has finished in the top two at ever Grand Prix this year despite suffering two mechanical setbacks in qualifying while Perez has made qualifying mistakes which have contributed to him finishing P5 and P16, not P2 like Verstappen.
Checo has to “maximise” the things he can control and ensure when he is unable to win, he is runner up to Verstappen.
“Accept the genius of Verstappen”
“[Verstappen] now leads team-mate Perez by 39 points which is approaching the equivalent of a win and a third place in hand,” added Brundle.
“What I learned when I was in direct competition with Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen and I simply couldn’t match their raw speed and gifted talents was to maximise everything that was in my control such as car race set-up, starts, in laps, out laps, traffic management and so on.
“Sergio would be better off making sure he finishes second and accepting the genius of Verstappen, and then maximise the days when he delivers his own special magic such as Singapore last year and Baku this season.”
Sergio contract clauses may come into play
Sage words for advice that Perez would do well to heed because his two year contract he signed last season is almost certain to have a performance clause inserted that would allow Red Bull to ditch him next year if he fails to meet the criteria.
Red Bull have a problem in that they are like to dominate Formula One at least until the next big regulation changes for the 2026 season.
If the next three years become the Max Vestappen show then public sentiment will quickly move against the world champions and they’ll be blamed for “making F1 boring.”
Perez is clearly not able to deliver the titanic struggle with his team mate F1 fans enjoyed for three seasons between Rosberg and Hamilton. Despite Mercedes dominating the sport at least their driving pairing created the drama and win two of the three years the drivers’ championship went down to the final race of the year.
Red Bull must look to the future
Red Bull Racing must look to the future regardless of Perez contract because whiter next year or in 2025 they will require a new partner for Verstappen.
If there is any hope they can create some jeopardy between the team mates results, their next driver must be considered soon and be a proven F1 performer.
Mercedes too will be fishing for the next ‘big thing’ unless Hamilton signs a Muti-year deal.
So the arch rivals may be competing for the same driver and whether it be Charles Leclerc or Lando Norris it is unlikely to be a junior driver from either team’s academy programme.
— Formula 1 (@F1) May 29, 2023