Sergio Perez has copped for some extreme criticism this Formula One season having been utterly dominated by his team mate Max Verstappen. Checo started the season so well and for a short time F1 fans actually believed he may be capable of doing what Nico Rosberg did to the all conquering Lewis Hamilton in 2016.
The under rated German driver who had repeatedly beaten the returning Michael Schumacher at Mercedes, beat Hamilton in a close run title race. Nico only required to finish second at the final round in Abu Dhabi to stop Lewis run of two previous consecutive drivers championships.
Perez early F1 title challenge
Red Bull’s Mexican driver hit the ground running at the start of this season wining two of the first four races. After his fourth round win in Azerbaijan, Checo claimed he should in fact be leading the drivers’ championship.
“There is so much you can talk outside the car, it’s important to deliver on the track and I think without the issues we had in qualifying in Melbourne we should be leading the championship.”
Sergio had beached his car in Australia during the first qualifying session and had to come through the field during the race to finish just fifth, yet Checo still believed he was a genuine F1 title contender for 2023.
“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 and I’m working towards that,” Perez told Sky Sports after his win in Baku.
Rosberg stays in fight with Hamilton
Yet when Nico Rosberg dislodged Lewis Hamilton who was word champion in 2014/5 he began the very differently to Red Bull’s number two driver.
Rosberg dominated the early part of the 2016 season with wins at the first four Grand Prix and led his team mate by 42 points. Famously the Mercedes pair took each other off at turn four in Barcelona at round five and from then on it was nip and tuck with Hamilton delivering a winnings streak of four races between Austria and Germany and again over the last four Grand Prix of the year.
Since his second win this year, Perez has fallen away from Verstappen in dramatic fashion. While the Dutch world champion driver has racked up eight wins in a row, Checo has made the podium on just four of those occasions.
Verstappen now leads his team mate by 125 points with ten rounds remaining. The double world champion stands on the cusp of clutching a raft of F1 records of the remainder of the year, the next would be to equal Vettel’s nine consecutive wins.
Most consecutive F1 wins next up
Ironically should Verstappen match the German’s historic run it will be should he take victory at his home Grand Prix in Zandvoort.
Sergio’s return to form and 33 points from his last two outings will probably see Verstappen defeated in his run for one of Formula One’s most coveted records.
A measure of an F1 driver’s dominance over his fellow competitors can be seen in the record set by Michael Schumacher back in 2002. He claimed the championship with six more Grand Prix yet to come with a win in July at the French Grand Prix.
For Verstappen to beat this he would need to be mathematically too far ahead to be caught if he were to score no further points from Singapore onwards. With Perez failing to qualify in the top ten for five consecutive races and a host of other drivers making the podium week in and out, this appeared likely until the last two Grand Prix.
Schumacher wins F1 with 6 races left
In all probability the best Verstappen can hope for is to win the championship in Japan which would see him equal Schumacher’s record.
If he fails to make it in the far east he would almost certainly then match Nigel Mansell’s record of becoming the seasons tops driver with five remaining Grand Prix – claiming the title in Qatar.
However, it has become more complicated to predict and potentially more difficult to deliver this record since the era of Mansell and Schumacher. With the advent of the point for the fastest lap and the introduction of the Sprint races – of which there are three remaining.
Bernie Ecclestone demanded the F1 points system be changed following Lewis Hamilton’s first championship victory in Brazil 2008. Hamilton won the title with just four wins that year, compared to Felipe Massa’s five.
Ecclestone changes the F1 points system
The F1 supremo argued that drivers were not trying hard enough to win races and in fact it encouraged them to stay in 2nd place or even 3rd place during a race in order to secure the points in the overall classification. He cited the “best example” of all was the last race of 2008, in Brazil, when Lewis Hamilton fought for 5th place like he was fighting for the win only to secure the world title.
The points system does now weight a win more heavily than when Hamilton claimed his first title, but unfortunately the simple math means that relative to your main rival, the positions claimed still offer the same position differential at the end of the season.
There are 284 points still available for a driver who wins every Grand Prix, Sprint and claims ten fastest laps, clearly way more than Verstappen’s current 124 point lead.
And with 24 of those available at Sprint events late in the season it makes the permutations of how soon Max can claim his third world title highly complex.
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Hamilton critical of early season F1 titles
The modern record of a driver claiming the title before the end of the season following the points system being re jigged is held by Sebastian Vettel in 2011 when he completed his second world championship with four races remaining. Lewis Hamilton’s most dominant years by this measure was to close out the title race with three remaining races.
With Verstappen running away with the title this season, Hamilton said “it’s never great when the season finishes early. Even when I’ve experienced having it finish early in places like Mexico.
“For you as the individual it’s great, but for the actual sport it’s not spectacular.
Hamilton in 6 last race ‘deciders’
“I’m really grateful to have had 2008 [season come] right down to the last 17 seconds, and obviously 2021, pretty much the same thing.”
Hamilton’s career has seem in participate in six final race deciders in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2016 and 2021.
Of his seven title-winning seasons, five were decided before the final race: 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.
Baring disaster, Verstappen is certain to equal if not better the modern record of a title win with four races remaining but Perez recent up turn in form has almost certainly prevented him from claiming the all time record held by Michael Schumacher.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 31, 2023