Perez just needs to win on a “proper circuit” now – Horner

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Sergio Perez needs to replicate his form on street circuits at permanent venues, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said following his driver’s win yesterday.

Since joining Red Bull in 2021, all Perez’s wins have come on ‘street’ circuits, including the Jeddah track which is laid out on purpose-built roads. His only victory on a permanent racing circuit came in 2020 at the Bahrain International Circuit, when he was driving for Racing Point.

“Checo is definitely living up to his nickname of King of the Streets or whatever his latest docuseries is going to be called,” joked Horner after yesterday’s race. “An incredible weekend by him.”

Perez won Saturday’s sprint race in Baku before leading home team mate Max Verstappen in the main event on Sunday.

“Winning the sprint race yesterday, obviously he got a little bit lucky with the timing of the Safety Car [in the grand prix],” said Horner. “But having got the lead he built close to a four-second lead at one point and controlled the race.

“So he used his opportunity, converted it into a great win. They were pushing each other hard, they were comparing times that they touched the wall the under the podium there. But we let them push all the way through, that was always the plan going into the race.”

With his second grand prix win of the season, Perez now lies six points behind championship leader Verstappen. Of the 19 races remaining, only four will take place on street tracks.

Perez therefore needs to show he can win on permanent courses in order to challenge for the championship, said Horner.

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“He just needs to do it on a normal track. He’s excelled at street circuits – all his victories, certainly for us, have been at street tracks. It’s the second time he’s won here, he won in Singapore, he won in Monaco, won in Jeddah, so just need to get going on the proper circuits.”

Although Perez took the lead through the mid-race Safety Car period, he had closed on Verstappen prior to that and showed he had strong pace afterwards. “As you can see on the race [chart], there’s virtually very little between them,” said Horner. “Probably up to about lap 28, Checo then pulls out a bit of a gap and then Max starts close it down over the last five laps.”

Horner said the pair were allowed to race each other but were reminded of the costly crash which eliminated Verstappen and former Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo during the grand prix five years ago.

“I think 2018 is clearly etched on everybody’s memory in this team,” said Horner. “It was something we discussed this morning and in the briefing.

“They’re free to race but we don’t want a 2018 replay. They pushed each other as hard as they could and it was a fine margin today that split the two of them.”

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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    40 comments on “Perez just needs to win on a “proper circuit” now – Horner”

    1. This is the most extreme rear limited track on the calendar based on corners only. Bahrain and Singapore might be due to their surfaces and temperatures, but Baku is fully rear limited to the track layout. Perez was always closer to Verstappen in Baku than in other tracks. I still believe regardless of the safety car, Perez was going to get Verstappen at some point yesterday.

      1. Indeed, he looked a bit faster before nyck debris caused the SC.

        But max was ready to do a “Russell” on him if needed, i’m sure of it.

        1. Does a rusell mean over-defending? I presume so as he always fights hard for position, harder than hamilton does.

        2. And I like russell for that reason btw.

      2. Yeah, he was pushing Max and would have been in position to go for a DRS driveby soon that probably was hard to defend @krichelle. And then Perez would have been the priority for stops, meaning Max would have to wait for Perez stop while his own tyres were already in a worse state then Perez’ tyres.

        I also think the track being rear limited has more to do with why Perez was close to max and able to maintain tyre live better than the fact this is a street track (although those two things aren’t completely unrelated)

    2. Why would anyone consider Jeddah anything but a purpose-built F1 track?

      1. Probably because it’s purpose-built to be like a street circuit. It’s quite cleverly done, too.

        Perhaps a bit like the Yeongam track; except the Koreans forgot to build the city around it.

        1. @MichaelN Indeed. Largely purpose-built with some portions that already pre-existed for regular traffic use, so effectively a semi-permanent circuit & for that matter, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is like an opposite as semi-temporary, with the circuit not being used by regular traffic but can be for some purposes.

        2. You floored me about the Korean city, Mike ! A field-circuit would be more appropriate ^^

    3. And once again it just feels like Horner is undermining Perez with nasty, snide little digs.

      “Oh you got lucky with the safety car”
      “Oh this isn’t a proper circuit”

      He has a strange concept of personnel motivation.

      1. I could think of nothing more than this. I feel bad for Perez. His team leadership is even against him and yet he is still wining races. It will be interesting how he and Max get along as the season progresses if Perez can win at a “proper” circuit. After the race, they asked Max something along the lines if he was worried about Checo closing in on him to within 6 points. Max didn’t seem concerned in the least and didn’t even talk about how Perez dominated the weekend.

      2. This is the best motivational speech, to keep Verstappen and his dad motivated and out of the way…
        If this is true or not is a different story, it still smells bad.

      3. Horner is undermining Perez with nasty, snide little digs.

        He did get lucky with the safety car. Wittich again called a yellow flag, then sat around for a bit, and suddenly converted that into a full on safety car – not even a virtual one – because… reasons.

        That’s not to say Pérez didn’t put in a solid performance, he did, but I doubt anyone there aside from maybe Pérez himself thinks he could have gotten past Verstappen otherwise. He was trailing him just like he did in previous years, even at this track where he tends to be closer to Verstappen’s pace.

        1. I don’t think it was like the other years tbh, he was really close to verstappen, close enough to try something, like ricciardo did in 2018, and in one of the 2 occasions he actually overtook verstappen, whereas perez wasn’t close enough in 2021 to attempt that.

      4. Yea that was some solid shade thrown.

      5. Totally agree

      6. With that kind of praise, Checo doesn’t need put-downs! Horner has a very unusual motivational technique.

      7. We read too much into it maybe. But whatever is in Perez head, the rest of the world knows he was on his way out since he is a mediocre driver and then lucked into Ricciardo leaving. His role in the team has always been and will always be ‘Valtteri, it’s James’. Bottas had his share of wins as well.

    4. I think nobody except Perez himself at this stage believes, that he can sustain such level of performance and speed over the course of the whole season. Especially that the beginning of the season is full of street tracks. Remember last season, he was considered a contender up until after Monaco, but later the gap between him and Max started getting bigger and at the end of the season he couldn’t beat Leclerc. Perez can do it, but he has to raise his bar to a new level, like Rosberg did in 2016 – then it’s possible for him. But I highly doubt that, Verstapen should encounter some misfortune as well. Perez is good, but he didn’t show yet that he is WDC material. Let’s again look how things are going in the middle of summer.

      1. like Rosberg did in 2016

        Let’s not forget the 2014 season was also not decided until the final race. Rosberg gave Hamilton a good run for his money, and while external circumstances certainly aided him at times, it wasn’t just in 2016.

      2. I loved that post Monaco delusional vibe from everyone believing in him. Shows how little insight they have into what it takes to be a WDC.

      3. I don’t really think even Perez himself believes that he can. But that is no reason not to try and do so anyway @osvaldas31! The longer he can keep it up, the more success he gets and the more respect from the team as well, no real downsides for him in it.

        I wholly expect Max to continue to out-qualify and more often than not out-race/outlast Perez on strategy etc.

        But so far I am happy he’s been a lot closer to Max’ since otherwise there wouldn’t be anything putting stress on Max to have to push, which would make it even less likely that he would have mechanical or other issues in the races!

    5. I guess even Christian Horner has to say things that are sometimes ‘agreeable’ – I mean, I agree, most of these street circuits are a far way from being ‘proper’ circuits,’ Monaco included.
      The difference in the Perez success/failure ratio between these circuits is down to his famous ‘tyre control,’ which itself is down to the way his pedal control skill, especially accelerating with the rear end firmly planted. Why accelerating and not braking too? Because braking to be done well (saving the tyres, not skidding off) also requires careful car balance and ‘feel’ for track adherence. That’s where his big difference to Verstappen (and the likes of Hamilton and Leclerc) come in. As we saw in Australia where the Red Bulls had adherence issues in the low temperatures, it was Perez he lost traction and went off repeatedly. Or when the races move to ‘proper’ flowing circuits with mostly fast-flowing corners like Monza, Spa or Silverstone, Perez falls way behind Verstappen.
      There are two points: first, can Perez really learn that sense of car balance and adherence feel at this stage and age? I doubt it. That seems to be something learnt in the earliest years of driving. Senna spent years as a teenager racing around tracks in the São Paulo rain to learn those kind of skills. So I don’t see how Perez does get to improve on these flowing, front-limited circuits. On the other hand, Perez is good at hard braking sharp street corners where the skill is in accelerating out of them without burning through the tyres. He’ll remain good at those, Monaco especially. The question is whether Max can learn from Perez in this case. Maybe more likely. Hamilton added being easier on the tyres to his skills over time.

      1. Yellow Barron
        1st May 2023, 19:40

        Interesting read your comment. I wonder if Perez could do it by going back to basics with some karting, especially creating adverse conditions and training his weaknesses specifically. Fernando still does karting and if I remember correctly rosberg took up karting again in 2016

        1. Interesting idea, especially as drivers have less practice time. You can see how Alonso’s rapid control and decision-making, honed in carting, allowed him to make the second pass on Hamilton in Bahrain. I think it’s easier for Verstappen to learn from Perez though. There’s a lot of misconceptions about why Verstappen and Hamilton are the fastest drivers: it’s not because they are late braking with rapid reactions like Sainz; it’s mostly down to how they sustain speed through faster corners by balancing the car early into corners and use very smooth inputs, keeping the car on the edge of stability. That requires tremendous subtlety and feel for the track – why they are both so good in wet weather too. But that also means that most street circuits, especially the slower ones, don’t tend to favour their style as much. Same applied to Rosberg v. Hamilton, where he also tended to get closer to Lewis or beat him at Monaco, for example (same with Bottas on occasion). If Perez could learn from Verstappen, or learn his style, it would make the season vastly more interesting. I just think he’s at the wrong end of his career to do that.

      2. “it was Perez he lost traction and went off repeatedly”… SMH again, it was clearly documented that in Australia Perez had problems with Engine brake throughout the weekend. Even Karum Chandhok quickly pointed out during Q1 the engine problem, RBR changed components after Qualitfying and by Sunday’s race time the car as compliant to Checo’s commands at the corners.
        If you hear Checo over the radio at end of Baku’s race you can hear him reminding the Team not to mess up again like in Australia.

        I think Checo can win on a few “proper” circuits as long as the car development doesn’t go away from him and towards Max’s preferences as it has been the case the last couple seasons. RBR is on the spot now, they don’t HAVE to develop the car to Max style to end at the front for the championship this season. If they keep the car development fair the competition between 1 and 11 cars could be entertaining all season, may the best driver win as long as it is with the same car.

        1. It was well-documented that Perez said that he had brake issues. The team was less than convincing and Marko is on record as saying both that any issue was resolved before qualifying and that Perez spinning out was down to his own driving: “Theoretically, Sergio’s problems were actually gone from practice. Maybe he didn’t have the optimal setup, but he was insecure and impetuous. And on the first fast lap it was even more slippery, he was still on old tyres. All this has led to him slipping out.”
          Does it matter? In a sense no because whatever he needed to tell himself, Perez bounced back. But I think the point I made stands. As for the car design, I agree that Red Bull may have choices to make – whether to keep the car ‘neutral’ or tend towards Max preferences. That choice will become more acute if some other teams start to get closer to the Red Bull performance and they need to prioritize their faster driver.

      3. I would say on these tighter circuits, where the slightest mistake can put the car into the wall, Perez has a psychological edge over Verstappen.

        Perez has nothing to lose and so commits himself, whereas Verstappen is doing that ‘risk vs benefits’ calculation and must be thinking it’s not worth the risk for those extra few points.

    6. Like last year, Perez is close in points in the beginning of the season getting some good results after some bad luck situations for Max and some press and fans are starting with the “Checo is a contendor for the championship” narrative. I really don’t buy into it since he has yet to win a race in a redbull where nothing happens to Max. I just don’t see it happening that he passes him on track on a similar strategy.

      I actually hope it because this will be the only way to get this season exciting from a WDC perspective but why would he suddenly be so much quicker compaired to his 10 plus earlier years in F1?

      But maybe I’m wrong, let’s find out…

      1. he has yet to win a race in a redbull where nothing happens to Max.

        Aside from Monaco 2022, that is. Pérez did infamously have that incident that compromised qualifying there, so since it was Monaco, that was pretty important to determining the outcome of the race.

    7. With friends like Horner, who needs enemies?

    8. Perez Formula E legend confirmed? ;)

    9. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      1st May 2023, 18:12

      This is counter-productive for Max. If he is this champion, then he has to prove himself.

      Red Bull should be trying to support Checo equally because if Max wins, it legitimizes his victory as opposed to Max running to his 2-3 daddies (Jos, Helmut, and Christian) everytime there’s an issue and asking for support.

      What is this? Is it F1 or 3 men and a baby?

    10. Horner please pray that he wont….because if he does we all now that you’ll have a big problem in hands

      1. I don’t think so, if the number 2 driver proves himself to be stronger than the number 1, there’s no reason he won’t take his place, it’s not like they made verstappen number 1 due to his name or surname or looks, he’s number 1 cause of his speed.

        Just see what leclerc did to vettel, or ricciardo did to vettel back at red bull.

      2. Although this could evolve in a hamilton-rosberg situation, since I doubt verstappen will be consistently outraced.

    11. Chris Horton
      1st May 2023, 23:21

      What a pathetic attempt to undermine Checo’s achievement.

      Just comes across as nasty and unnecessary.

      1. I think this is actually just a manager doing his job to motivate his employee to perform even better. I don’t like Horner but he seemed to have made a active effort to be quite positive this weekend even throughout the fall out over Russell and Verstappen.

    12. Far from a slight on Perez, this comment seems to point the finger at Verstappen.

      I would say Perez is a lot ‘braver’ than Verstappen on these tighter unforgiving circuits.

    13. You have to appreciate the believers. After Checo will win Monaco they’ll be going wild. Reality however is that F1 is luckily still (not sure for how long) mostly driven on proper circuits where he will be on the back foot since he is at best a mediocre midfield driver. Last years RB had some challenges and Max is capable of driving around them and extracting the maximum. Perez simply cant like Bottas couldn’t. But in the years where the car is that good that both drivers can distract the maximum quite easily out of the car you will see more parity feeding the believers. They’ll even get feisty, screaming that Perez isnt being given the same opportunities. Nonsense of course, we have all seen his career. Everyone can drive a top car, but he will lose out when things are less than perfect… which is inevitable throughout the course of a season.

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