Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2021

Would Perez give up home victory for Verstappen? Mexico City GP talking points

2021 Mexico City Grand Prix

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Sergio Perez will arrive at his home race this weekend with a genuine chance of being the first Mexican driver to win their country’s grand prix.

But team mate Max Verstappen’s championship chances come first for their Red Bull team, and that could force them to make a difficult call on Sunday.

Here are the talking points for this weekend’s race.

A “brutal” call for Red Bull?

Verstappen heads into this weekend’s race with a 12 point lead over Lewis Hamilton in the championship. With 133 points still up for grabs, the title fight remains wide open.

Neither team will want to miss an opportunity to boost their leading drivers’ scores. Yet Red Bull have shown there is a limit to how far they are prepared to go.

In the closing stages at Silverstone they pitted Perez from 10th, giving up a point and potentially more, in order for him to set the fastest lap of the race and therefore deprive Hamilton of a bonus point. Red Bull could have done the same at the last race in Austin, which would have meant dropping Perez from third to fourth behind Charles Leclerc, but decided this was too high a price to pay.

Perez’s position was sacrificed at Silverstone
“It would have been brutal to pit Checo and take him off the podium,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “Leclerc obviously was too close behind. I think the collective position for the team is it’s better for Checo to take the points. So that’s what we did.”

So how would the team handle a scenario where Perez is leading in the final laps at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Sunday with Verstappen behind him? It’s hard to imagine Red Bull would turn down a seven-point swing in Verstappen’s favour in the drivers’ championship at no cost to their constructors’ tally.

That conversation has surely already taken place within Red Bull. But that doesn’t mean the team won’t be hoping the situation doesn’t arise. Perez enjoys the kind of huge, vocal support at this race that his team mate had at Zandvoort a few months ago, and a surrendered home win would not be popular.

But Red Bull can feel optimistic it won’t come to that. Verstappen has dominated his team mate this season. In his five appearances at home so far Perez has only been the first of his team’s drivers home once. There’s a good chance Perez won’t have to do as Felipe Massa did at Interlagos 14 years ago, and give up a home win to help his team mate win the championship.

Mercedes’ altitude weakness

Mexico City has not been an especially strong venue for Mercedes, who tend not to perform as well at the unusually high altitude track. All teams feel the consequences of the 25% reduction in air pressure which cuts downforce, decreases engine performance and inhibits cooling. But Mercedes seem to be especially vulnerable to its effects.

True, Mercedes won the last race at this track in 2019, last year’s event being cancelled due to the pandemic. But Verstappen would have taken pole position had it not been for a yellow flag infringement, and he clearly had the pace to win the race for the third year in a row. This looks like a venue where Red Bull can entertain serious hopes of scoring their first one-two of the season.

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Retirement fear

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Circuit of the Americas, 2021
Neither title contender can afford a retirement
For the championship contenders, the imperative need to avoid a retirement couldn’t be clearer at this stage in proceedings.

Consider Hamilton’s position: If he fails to finish and Verstappen bags a maximum score, the Red Bull driver can assure himself of the title by taking second place in all the remaining races (including Brazil’s sprint qualifying round, which pays extra). That would be a significant milestone for Verstappen in a season where he’s finished no lower than second in every race besides those where he’s suffered some kind of misfortune.

It goes both ways, of course: A retirement for Verstappen, or a repeat of his poor result from his last appearance at this track, could see Hamilton head to Brazil back in the lead of the championship.

Ferrari poised to pass McLaren

Since introducing a new power unit in Russia, Ferrari have trimmed McLaren’s points lead, and are well placed to overhaul them this weekend. The two teams are separated by just three-and-a-half points in the fight for ‘best of the rest’ honours behind Mercedes and Red Bull.

The particular challenges of Mexico’s circuit don’t play solely to the strengths of either car. Long straights and high top speeds should suit the McLaren. However the corners are mostly very slow and the grip levels are poor, which suits the Ferrari as Monaco and Baku showed.

It looks like being an contest between the two teams again, with potentially another cameo appearance from Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri to further enliven proceedings.

Alonso and track limits

Alonso criticised another race control call in Austin
Fernando Alonso increasingly seems to be on a one-man mission to demand race control and the stewards enforce letter-of-the-law penalties for breaches of the sporting regulations, particularly relating to track limits.

His frustration at seeing Kimi Raikkonen sweep past him on the outside of turn one at the last race was not hard to understand. Alonso also claimed – again – that rival drivers had used the run-off area at the same corner to gain positions at the start.

There are many points on the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez where drivers can run wide without penalty, but over the years F1 has imposed track limits restrictions to prevent them gaining an advantage. These are at turns one, two, three, eight and 11. If any scope for gain remains, expect the sharp-eyed Alonso to be the first to spot it.

Zandvoort’s superior makeover

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2019
Most of Mexico’s quick corners were cut when F1 returned
Six years on from F1’s first race at the remodelled Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, the drastic changes made to the circuit for the series’ return contrast sharply with the more sympathetic alterations made for the same reason at Zandvoort, which welcomed the sport back this year.

Many of the Dutch track’s corners were kept intact and its challenging mix of grass and gravel run-off retained. Mexico’s circuit was treated completely differently: almost every corner was made slower and asphalt run-offs widely installed.

While corners like the fearsome Peraltada were always likely to face the chop, couldn’t more of the rhythm and flow of the Mexican track have been retained? Even given the limited room for run-off (also a challenge at Zandvoort) it feels unnecessarily tight and slow in places, notably at turns two, three, five and six.

The reduced grip due to the altitude does not help, of course. Teams run Monaco-style maximum downforce configurations in Mexico, but the lower air pressure means they generate less downforce than their slim Monza wings.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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27 comments on “Would Perez give up home victory for Verstappen? Mexico City GP talking points”

  1. This situation is unlikely to arise in the first place, given this season’s general form, but on the off-chance, if Checo led with Max second, a swap would happen unless their gap were more than a pit stop.
    Alternatively, if Max had a points lead more than 52, i.e., the two-race maximum score for a single driver, swapping for 6-8 extra points this late in the season wouldn’t be as crucial.
    12 pts difference is nothing, so not maximizing all achievable points could prove costly.
    RB did what they did in Silverstone, but they only gave up a single point as P10 was the highest possible finishing position at that point anymore.

    I agree concerning AHR’s slow-speed nature, but I’d merely alter the stadium section to have a single 100% 90-degree left turn starting, of course, earlier than the present T13 so that a full straight-line into T16 right-hander could follow.
    My proposed change would make this track portion more driveable.

  2. RB swap No.2 drivers like they were aero parts. I’m sure Checo is just thankful that he has the seat at all right now.

  3. I’d say if Checo is leading and Max is 2nd, Max would probably ask where is Hamilton before overtaking Perez. If Hamilton is far down the grid or DNF, Max maybe would decide to leave the win for Checo? I get that you want to maximize the result, but it would mean a lot to a lot of people if Checo could win in Mexico

    1. No way. 7 points will be the margin between WDC or no WDC. Even Perez knows it would be crazy to sacrifice Max’s WDC for a home win.

  4. Would Bottas give up victory for Hamilton? Mexico City GP talking points”

    1. I get where you’re at. But that’s not a talking point. That’s a fact.

    2. “Valteri, this is James””

  5. Silverstone was different.
    From constructors’ perspective, Red Bull sacrificed 1 point of 10th place to ensure Mercedes lost 1 point of fastest lap. So, no net loss from that perspective.
    From drivers’ perspective, Perez sacrificed 1 point of 10th place to ensure Lewis lost 1 point of fastest lap. So, no net loss in Checo vs Hamilton battle for WDC and 1 point gain for Max in the Max vs Hamilton battle for WDC.
    So, all Red Bull parties were better off (or no-worse off) if Checo pitted.

    Here, if at all it happens, I think Checo will give way to Max. He is wise enough to do it.

    1. If I remember correctly PER was poised to a 8th or 7th position before getting called to box.

      1. Checo was running in 10th position. The decision made no difference on the WCC, but it did affect the WDC.

  6. Was reading some of the comments made by Marko recently and it is absolutely clear that within the team, there is no doubt that Perez is the designated support/second driver. I don’t think there would be any hesitation on the ‘brutal’ call if needed.

  7. A “brutal” call for Red Bull?

    Why on this website is it only called out as “Brutal” if Red Bull does it – Mercedes have made that call many times before even if WDC was not really into play, at Zandvoort they told Bottas to abort fastest lap similar to Red Bull giving up 10th place to take FLAP away from Hamilton.

    I actually think Perez doesn’t need to be told by the team, similar to earlier in the season I expect that Perez from himself will actively support the team and Max in their chance to win WDC.

    1. “It would have been brutal to pit Checo and take him off the podium,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.

    2. @jelle-van-der-meer Because as it has been pointed out in the article SP is Mexican and a Mexican has never won his home race.

    3. @jelle-van-der-meer It’s called ‘brutal’ as it’s quoting what Horner said after the last race – that pitting Perez and losing him a podium would have been ‘brutal’.

  8. Commercially RBR would want PER to win.
    One can only imagine the boost to Red Bull sales, especially Mexico & US [B-I-G market].
    Basically a BIG call by RBR would be based on where HAM would finish, 1-2 either way will not affect WCC points.

  9. Honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Max gave Checo the win in a 1-2 scenario, even with the championship at play. He’s that kind of a guy. Look what he did with Ricciardo. He wanted him to win Monza!

  10. Regarding SP and Max, I just think, as the article points out, they will have discussed all the possibilities ahead of time so there will be no surprises within the team or for the drivers if a call has to be made. The brutal part, depending of course on the scenario, would be felt more by the crowd, but the team itself will have discussed the brutal part out of it for themselves. They will be following a plan, whatever the drivers’ placings near the end.

  11. It is a good article, although not surprisingly triggering the usual suspects to blurt their dislike of Hamilton and Mercedes. It gets a bit boring.

    I believe the scenario of Checo being ahead is not the most likely one, but should it happen I think RB’s call will be very clear to let Max pass him. As for Max himself, I suspect he will not feel 100% comfortable passing Checo that way – it will certainly encourage Max to make sure he’s ahead in the first place. Of course Max doesn’t need this added motivation to win, he’s got plenty of that already.

    1. I am sure Max want to prevent this before things get out of hands by telling Checo to let Max through.

      It will depends of the start will Lewis slipstream past both of Red Bull?

  12. I am bewildered by the title of this article. Perez will never need to give up his home win to Verstappen because Perez will never be as fast as Verstappen to get that win. Period.

    Perez will lose in qualification and race, no doubt. There’s a chance he will finish second, but I doubt it because Hamilton is 10 times better than Perez.

    1. Your dislike for Perez blinds you… the article is certainly sensationalist but in motorsports anything can happen.

  13. Perez is the no2 driver his feelings are not going to be taken into consideration when it comes to Verstappens championship hopes.

  14. I wouldn’t be surprised if RB does not swap them, but it is unlikely for them to be in that position anyways. The negative media attention RB would receive for doing that would make the team, max, and their sponsors look bad. It’s better to be an honest runner up than a winner*. Would Red Bull and Max really want the championship titled tainted by such an unsporting decision just to win? I think not, and the fact it is at Checo’s home race makes me say they will not swap them.

    I don’t see much behind the scenes, but I get a feeling that Red Bull are more honorable and sporting than Mercedes. As others have pointed out we wouldn’t even be discussing whether Bottas would be asked to give up his position for Hamilton. He’s been asked to do this around mid season. Ridiculous.

    1. That makes no sense imo, they will swap them if the need arises, I’m sure, and it will not taint the championship, no more than silverstone, hungary or baku did…

  15. Maybe it will be a trend of things going wrong on Perez’s car. Water bottle at US Grand Prix, radio at the Mexican Grand Prix…

  16. I have a huge respect for Checo and if he will help Max to clinch the title, my respect will only grow up.

    Hope RB will blast 1-2 in Mexico.

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