Despite currently conquering the world of Formula One, Red Bull have a looming crisis that will just not go away. After an impressive start to the season which saw Sergio Perez juts six points behind Verstappen after four races were complete, the performance of the Mexican driver behind the wheel of the RB19 has imploded.
Over the past four F1 weekends Checo has been outscored by Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton whilst the struggling Ferrari of Carlos Sainz has equaled the Red Bull driver’s 38 points and George Russell with a DNF has one point fewer.
Horner defends Perez for now
Christian Horner has been talking down the problem with his number two driver.
“I think he’s had three difficult weekends, three difficult Saturdays, that then puts you on the backfoot on a Sunday. And we’ve seen what Checo is capable of, only a month or two ago,” claimed the Red Bull boss following the Canadian Grand Prix.
“And I think he just needs to have a strong weekend to find that confidence. And then I’ve got no doubt he’ll be back.”
Yet the reality is the RB19 is so far ahead of the field it could smash McLaren’s win record set in 1988 by their MP4/4 car. Over 15 races that season the Woking based team won 15 of the 16 races giving them a win rate of 94%.
McLaren’s most dominant MP4/4
Whilst Red Bull are 8 wins from 8 this year they are almost at the point where beating McLaren’s number of 1-2 finishes is looking unlikely. Senna and Prost had just three races where the team did not finish 1-2 in 1988 where both cars were classified at the chequered flag.
Perez has already finished outside the top two in four races this year and has failed to make the pole position shootout at the last three Grand Prix. Given the dominance of the RB19 the gap between Perez and Verstappen is too large and will become unacceptable for the team.
For now Horner can continue to defend his underperforming driver as he points to his standing in the drivers’ title race.
“He is second in the world championship at the moment. He’s the only other driver to have won two races other than Max this year.
“So yeah, we need to support him through this period. And I’m sure he’ll find his form again soon.”
Perez recent results ‘calamitous’
Yet having adopted the nickname “King of the Street Circuits” Perez has looked anything other than regal since his win in Azerbaijan. Starting from pole position some 8 places ahead of his team mate, Sergio was easily caught and beaten in Miami which is in effect a street style temporary track.
Then in Monaco, the ultimate street circuit, Checo binned his car into the wall at turn one in the opening moments of qualifying and after a torrid race finished P16 outside the points.
Then starting outside the top 10 in Spain and Canada, Perez failed to make the podium and now sits just 9 points ahead of Fernando Alonso.
Perez repeatedly places his difficulties firmly with the braking system on the RB19. Speaking with Spanish publication Dario Sport this weekend the Mexican driver claims, “I have problems with the braking. I need to work with the team to find out what is happening.
Perez claims car has barking issues
Sergio first made this claim back at the third round of the F1 schedule in Melbourne Australia. He missed turn three in qualifying and put his car into the gravel at turn three.,
Yet Christian Horner denied it was a technical issue with the car blaming the qualifying error squarely on his driver.
“It’s 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.”
Perez ‘not up to the task’
Ex-F1 team boss of the triple world championship winning Benetton F1 team Flavio Briatore believes the issue is simple in that Sergio Perez is just not in the same league as his team mate Max Verstappen.
“We saw the usual absolute supremacy of a driver, Max Verstappen, in Canada,” he told the Italian business newspaper Il Riformista.
“His teammate Checo Perez, on the other hand, was far behind. It was another demonstration that not only the car must be good but the driver must also be up to the task,” concluded Briatore.
Perez is living in denial which was evident when he contradicted his team bosses assertion that the drop in form was due to pressure competing with Verstappen.
Checo denies mental struggles
“I don’t think so,” Perez insisted last time out when the suggestion was put to him.
“Mentally I feel strong,” claimed Checo. “I’m not in a tunnel of negativity or anything.
“I’m strong. I’ll come back,” Perez added.
“In the most recent races I have lacked pace, it’s true,” he admitted, “but not in Monaco where I was fast all weekend. I just made a mistake.
“I think mentally you have to be strong, and I am. I know that I will get through this difficult period.”
Perez no Senna or Prost
Recently Perez’s father compared the battle between Max and Sergio to the one the raged in the late 1980’s between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. Yet in the classic 1988 season which pitched those two drivers against each other in the all conquering McLaren MP4/4, the two drivers won 8 (Senna) and 7 (Prost) races each in their titanic struggle for the world championship.
It would be difficult to find a current F1 observer who believes that Sergio Perez can win another 5 or 6 races this season.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 18, 2023