Max Verstappen is hurtling towards his third consecutive Formula One drivers’ championship smashing decades old records along the way. The paddock consensus is that the Adrian Newey designed RB19 is one if not the most dominant F1 car ever built and of course no great driver can win without a great car.
Yet the mystery of the season has been the performance of his team mate Sergio Perez who has scored just over a third of the points for Red Bull so far which has seen the team score just six 1-2 finishes from sixteen races.
Perez errors too numerous to list
Perez began the year seemingly well, winning in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan and after four events was a mere six points behind Verstappen.
Yet the signs were already present that the future was not bright for the Mexican driver as early as round three in Australia, when Christian Horner claimed he made a mistake and crashed out of the first qualifying session to start the race last.
He driver errors kept coming and again in Monaco Checo was out of qualifying minutes after session one began. Since then the driver mistakes are too numerous to list here, but in Japan Sergio had another shocker the starting from fifth he should have been on the podium.
The current state of play is that Verstappen sits on 400 points while his team mate has just 225 and this gulf has caused many to question how this can be.
Wolff accuses Red Bull
One theory is that the RB19 has been designed for Max Verstappen and not for Perez, yet this does not explain why Checo was so close in the championship after the fifth round in Miami where the deficit was just 13 points.
The boss of Mercedes claimed in Zandvoort after the summer break that Verstappen “destroyed every single team-mate” and suggested this was down to an “ability to create a car around himself that is very tricky to control but fast if you can”.
Whilst before the ground effect era which arrived last season, this may have been possible, the very nature of the underfloor aerodynamics forces the hands of the engineers to design their cars in a particular fashion and the window in which the cars are optimised is much smaller than in previous years.
Christian Horner refuted Toto Wolff’s assertion and jibed, “It shows a total lack of understanding of how a race car and team develop if Toto thinks that we’re developing a car around a single driver.
Horner refutes allegations
“You develop a car to be as quick as you can and sometimes quick cars are difficult cars. That’s what’s historically been the case.
“I think that the good drivers adapt. You see it in wet conditions, mixed conditions, varied conditions. The elite, they adapt quickly.
Both Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc have recently admitted the new ground effect cars delivered to them by their teams have required them to modify their driving style, something Verstappen commented upon earlier this year.
Put simply, the ground effect cars have more front grip and less rear grip and this is something Lewis Hamilton has complained about and told his team, “it has to change for the future. 100%.
Hamilton complains lack of rear end grip
“We still have generally a very strong front and not as good a rear as we would hope to have,” Hamilton said of the W14 compared to the W13.”
However, Hamilton is suffering from similar problems to Perez in that he likes the car with more rear grip and the ground effect cars when optimised do not drive that way.
Perez added a nuance to the narrative in Zandvoort in an attempt to explain why his performances had dropped off since Miami. He suggested the way the car has been developed favours Verstappen more than himself.
“The last few races, I’ve been like a step or two behind and always thinking consciously [about] how I have to drive the car. Sometimes, with how the car has been developed, it doesn’t really suit me as much. So I have to work harder for it,” Perez told assembled media.
Perez Snr wades in
But now Sergio’s father has waded into the debate claiming Red Bull have no intention of providing his son with a car that he can drive effectively and that Checo was merely hired as a number two.
“Checo continues to struggle with the car in something that we have not detected,” he said speaking to Mexican media outlet ESTO following the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix.
“The car is set for Max. Max drives with all the grip in the front, and Checo has driven all his life and all the time he has driven with the grip in the back.
“So today Checo has to adapt to driving a car, and Max doesn’t.”
Sergio hired to be No.2
From all the comments made by Red Bull and a range of drivers across the F1 grid, this appears to be a father merely finding excuses for his son’s failure.
“The position Checo Perez is in the drivers’ championship is the one for which he was hired: second place,” he added.
“There is only one place to be a champion. Checo has to work, he has to earn it. This whole thing was built for Max to be there.
Perez Snr appears to take solace in the fact his son is now second in the drivers’ championship and that his team are again F1 title winners.
Perez failed to adapt
“When Checo finished in tenth place, it was a source of pride for us that he won a point,” he added. “Today, he ends in second place and we get angry, we want him to be first.
“The only thing I can tell you is that Mexico is going to have an F1 world champion and also, this weekend was the second time that Checo is F1 champion, in the constructors’ [championship].”
The reality for Sergio is his driving style committed him to run the pre-ground effect cars in a particular fashion. Much of his pre-Red Bull success was from being a ‘tyre whisper’ which relied on banking the car evenly front to back to reduce the degradation.
Max just has greater aptitude
As other drivers are now admitting, it will nearby possible to set the new ground effect cars up in certain ways possible before 2022. And they all must learn to drive differently – just as a Le Mans car does – of they are to be successful in F1.
The RB18/19 cars were not designed for Verstappen, but rather he has worked harder than others – or is more talented and adaptable than the rest – to relearn his driving craft, and the results are plain to see.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 25, 2023
MORE F1 NEWS – Marko: “completely done with Perez”
Much has been written this season about the genius of Max Verstappen’s performances this season as he is set to claim the F1 drivers’ title in Qatar with a record number of Grand Prix remaining.
Yet unlike during the Mercedes era of dominance when more often than not their drivers came home in first and second place, much has been written about Sergio Perez inability to… READ MORE ON THIS ARTICLE