As the Formula One circus heads to the Middle East for the third Grand Prix in the region this year, a number of issues are still bubbling away under the surface. Rodin cars who had applied to join the F1 grid have revealed their entry has been rejected by the FIA, but that Andretti Motorsport is set to be given the green light.
On track Red Bull are dominating the year, but the issue of Sergio Perez remains a talking point and whether he will retain his seat alongside Verstappen for 2024.
Over 8 races Norris scored more than Perez
Since the upgrade to the MCL60 in Austria now eight races ago, Lando Norris has outscored the Red Bull number two driver whose performances have continued to be erratic.
In Japan, Checo had a woeful race day colliding with Hamilton at the start forcing him to pit on lap one for a new front wing. Then in his attempt to fight his way back through the pack he made a clumsy move on Kevin Magnussen, T-Boning the Haas out of the way.
This was terminal to Perez’s race and saw him leave the weekend scoring no points for the second time this season.
Toto Wolff has propounded the theory that Red Bull have built the RB19 to suit Max Verstappen, something Horner mocked suggesting “it shows a total lack of understanding of how a race car and team develop.”
Perez camp complains about the car
That said Checo and his father have not helped their cause with Perez Snr recently claiming “the whole thing was built for Max” – though he later recanted.
Sergio has a more nuanced view claiming since the upgrades in Miami he has struggled with the direction in which the car has gone.
“I think every driver through their career or through each season, you get some upgrades to the car that adapt easier to your driving style than others,” Perez said as recently as Monza.
However, Lando Norris believes that the idea a team makes a car suited to a specific driver is nonsense.
Norris: ‘Car not designed for one person’
Speaking to assembled media in Japan, Norris said: “It’s not down to the team to just make a car design for a person. Maybe that’s a perfect world. It’s our job to deliver no matter what the car is.
“Max said something very similar the other day after Toto made the comment about the Red Bull. I don’t think you can just design a car for someone.”
To exploit the new 2022 ground effect rules which have changed everything in terms of F1 car downforce design, Adrian Newey simply looked at how to make the fastest car, something Norris agrees with.
“It’s very much down to the driver to drive the car they’re given. I think this way, if I end up being slower than my team-mates because of whatever reason, then I’m not doing a good enough job.
“It’s as simple as that. It’s the driver’s job. That’s why we’re here.”
‘Quick car more important than easy to drive’
Its not a big leap to translate Norris comments into Perez’s circumstances and now 177 points behind his team mate and being hunted down by Lewis Hamilton, clearly the Mexican “is not doing his job.”
Lando of course would love a car that would suit his preferred way of driving but in the real world that happens not often.
“For me, the most important thing is to make a quick car,” he said.
“Yes, you want the car to be nice to you and suit you. But drivers get they get paid enough money to make the best of every circumstance.”
McLaren F1 cars not easy to drive
Norris raises the often overlooked matter that an F1 driver is employed by the team rather than the other way around. No matter how much drivers’ believe they are the stars of the show, they are paid to do a job with the tools provided with them by the team.
“I think what people fail to understand sometimes from the outside is that a driver’s job is to drive whatever car they are given as quickly as possible.
“Whether it’s a car they like, they don’t like is tricky, is safe, whatever it is. It’s our job to go and just drive what the team give us.”
McLaren have not always made the easiest cars to drive with Carlos Sainz making reference to the fact when he left for Ferrari.
Sainz talked to Ricciardo about McLaren
The Spanish driver revealed he had a conversation with his successor Daniel Ricciardo about how different the McLaren was to drive when compared to the Renault which he had been previously driving.
“Yeah, I actually remember having few conversations with Daniel. Because I did exactly the same step. I came from Renault, which was a particular car in one direction, and suddenly McLaren was a car in the opposite direction,” revealed Sainz.
Ricciardo struggled even more with the McLren when he joined the team which eventually saw him paid out of his contract a year earlier than intended.
Perez complaints invalid
Sainz continued: “And I went up to McLaren telling, ‘Guys the cars are completely different and I don’t know how to drive this car.’ I did the testing in Abu Dhabi and I said I need to reset everything. I went into my first year at McLaren having to reset all my references and all my way of driving.
“And I remember telling Daniel a couple of times look the cars do feel really really different. Here it proves to be the truth that in F1 you can find completely different balances, completely different driving styles and you just have to keep adapting, keep absorbing all the information to be an adaptable driver,” the Spaniard concluded.
So the repeated complaints from the Perez camp must be seen in the light of the experience of other F1 drivers who know the car they are given is not always to their liking.
Norris hits the nail on the head arguing he would rather have a quick car than one which was easy to drive.
Hamilton struggled with driving style too
“You can have a quick car and one that is great to drive but at the end of the day, I will always pick driving a difficult car that’s quick than a nice car that’s slow.
“And I think we know that our priority is just to make a quick car. If it’s difficult it’s difficult, then we can work on making it a better car to drive.”
Given the performances of Max Verstappen this year clearly Sergio Perez is not capable of making the adjustments required to drive well the Red Bull car with its characteristics. Lewis Hamilton has suffered a similar experience with the ground effect Mercedes cars designed by Brackley
Surely the team will cut its losses and let Sergio go through a release clause in his contract for 2024 built in for such a situation.