When [performing his media duties at recent F1 Grand Prix, Sergio Perez looks as though he wants the ground to open up an swallow him. The Mexican driver now has only six drivers who have performed worse than him during the entire season to date.
Perez claimed two pole positions over the first four races this year and made final qualifying in four of the first five F1 weekends of 2023.
Perez 7th worst F1 qualifier this year
The Mexican driver has now failed to make qualifying three for five consecutive races since he put his RB19 into the wall at turn 1 on his first flying lap in Monte Carlo.
Only, Valterri Bottas, Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo), Yuki Tsunoda, Myck de Vries (AlphaTauri), Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and Logan Sargeant (Williams) have featured less in the final stages of qualifying across the ten F1 events held so far this year.
Yet in the sister car, Checo’s team mate is smashing records left right and centre. This weekend’s win at the British GP surpassed Lewis Hamilton’s record of five consecutive race wins as Verstappen made it six in a row.
The world champion is set to break even more records this year which probably include, most wins per season, most % wins per season, exceeding Hamilton’s all time percentage win rate together with equaling Lewis’ most consecutive wins at a grand prix should Max take the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi.
Red Bull decision on Perez looms
Meanwhile Sergio Perez is struggling to keep the identical sister car on the circuit over one lap.
Whilst Checo remains second in the drivers’ standings for now he is just 19 points ahead of Fernando Alonso and 35 in front of the fast closing Lewis Hamilton.
The saving grace for Red Bull’s number two driver is that each of the other front running teams are inconsistent from week to week. Alonso who was second in Canada, struggled to remain in seventh at the British Grand Prix. Meanwhile the McLaren pairing were taking points away from Russell and Hamilton in Silverstone and so the story goes from weekend to weekend.
However, Red Bull know there is a time coming where Mclaren, Mercedes, Aston Martin and Ferrari will close the yawing gulf between themselves and the runaway championship leaders.
Red Bull history of ruthlessness
And while that will probably not alter the outcome of this seasons two championships, Perez’s failure to exploit the full capabilities of the Red Bull car will come home to haunt them further down the line.
It is almost inconceivable Red Bull will now take up the option of the second year on Checo’s current contract and will be searching for a replacement for the erratic Mexican driver.
The world champions have been ruthless in previous years in removing a driver form their top team mid season, and relegating them into the junior team at present named AlphaTauri.
Pierre Gasly was the most recent to suffer the ignominy of a mid season sacking as he was replaced by Alex Albon who was remarkably in his rookie year.
Vote of confidence means zero
Having had a string of poor results and finishing sixth at the Hungarian GP right before the summer break, Red Bull’s Helmut Marko insisted to Autosport, “This year we won’t change. We will end the season as we currently are.”
Four weeks later as the Frenchman arrived in Spa-Francorchamps he was informed he had been demoted to the junior Toro Rosso team and Alex Albon replaced him alongside Verstappen.
Presently both Christian Horner and Helmut Marko are singing the same tune and giving Perez their vote of confidence. Yet is this just another papering over the cracks and as with Gasly the team is considering who should take the Mexican driver’s place.
“Perez’s weakness in qualifying. He has to have that under control,” Helmut Marko claimed after the poor qualifying in Silverstone.
Verstappen highly critical of Perez
Horner similarly defended Checo at the Austrian GP string categorically, “Everybody is fully behind Checo, so any talk of him being replaced is wide off the mark.”
Yet are the sands shifting behind the scenes? With just two races remaining before the summer break are the Red Bull hierarchy merely talking up Perez in the hope he will not lose heart completely?
Max Verstappen has been unusually vocal over the performance of his team mate. Following his win in Canada which extended Red Bull’s lead in the constructors’ title race, Verstappen bluntly told reporters:
“Well, if I wasn’t here today, obviously it would have been very different for the team,” he said. “That’s one way of looking at it.”
Max bold claim about Perez contribution
Perez had managed just sixth place, struggling to overtake after starting in twelfth.
Again after another win for the team in Silverstone, Verstappen demonstrated he has little sympathy for Perez
“Obviously we’re also fighting for the constructors’ championship win, but I think I’m going to have to do it on my own at the moment,” he told assembled media.
Interestingly Verstappen decided to discuss how comfortable Daniel Ricciardo was with the team but refused to be drawn on whether there was talk of him replacing Checo.
Verstappen bigs up Ricciardo
“Daniel is doing a good job in the simulator, which doesn’t surprise me either, because he hasn’t lost his talent. I think he’s comfortable with us.”
“He listens a lot and asks a lot. I know Daniel very well, so we can talk about a lot of things,” added the world champion.
As to whether Ricciardo could potentially replace Perez in the RB19, Verstappen was clipped in his response saying, “I don’t talk about that.”
Daniel Ricciardo is set for a three day tyre test with Pirelli in Silverstone this week and Helmut Marko cryptically revealed to ORF last week in Austria:
Three days of testing for Danny Ric
“We will have Ricciardo in the car for three days after Silverstone at the tyre test and then you can evaluate where Ricciardo really stands.”
Ricciardo was the most successful partner Red all ever placed alongside Verstappen. During almost three seasons together Ricciardo and Max were evenly matched.
Verstappen had five wins to Daniel’s four, but lost out on total points scored 626-621.
Ricciardo is the only team mate who in direct combat beat Verstappen to a race win. He edged out the Dutch driver in Malaysia 2016 to retain second place until the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton failed awarding Red Bull a 10-2 finish.
Of course Max Verstappen has developed significantly over the four years since Ricciardo left Red Bull. However for the neutral fans with Red Bull running away with both titles at present, it would be better had they a more competitive driver up against Verstappen who may push him into a mistake or two every now and again.
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— Formula 1 (@F1) July 10, 2023