Miami GP win would make Perez a true title contender – Button

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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If Sergio Perez wins this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, he will lead the Formula 1 world championship for the first time in his career. Jenson Button reckons such a win would instigate a title challenge.

Perez has already won two of the first four grands prix this year, doing so from pole in Jeddah while also winning the sprint race in Baku last weekend. He sits six points behind championship-leading Red Bull team mate and reigning champion Max Verstappen.

Last year Perez finished the season 149 points behind Verstappen. However Button, the 2009 world champion who is returning to the Le Mans 24 Hours this year in a modified NASCAR Cup series car, believes his former McLaren team mate is showing improved form in 2023.

“I am really impressed with Sergio. Max, he has to be the toughest team mate, because he just gets out there and gets it done in terms of his speed,” said Button.

“I think [Perez] did a really good job at the weekend, and back-to-back wins if you like with the sprint race and the main event. That will give him a lot of confidence.

“I think we are only going to really know when we go to the next race. Kind of a street race as well: If he can pull out a win there, I mean that would be a massive deal for him. And I think that would give him confidence for the season.”

Button says Perez needs to demonstrate he can be a consistent threat to his team mate. “We haven’t seen him throughout the season obviously be as competitive as Max. Max is on it every weekend.

Lewis Hamilton: on it every weekend, pretty much. Maybe not so with the car this year. But that’s normally the way that they go racing, and that’s why they’re so difficult to beat over a season. Whereas Checo has been a lot more up-and-down.

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“It’s much more difficult to win a championship like that when you’re up against Max. So I think the consistency is where Sergio has been lacking. The consistency to pull it out the bag. But if he can do it in Miami, I think he has a chance to fight for the championship.

“I didn’t think I’d be saying that, I really didn’t. But it’s great to see he’s got so much confidence in that car. And it’s good for the sport. We need it because the Red Bull obviously has an advantage at the moment. We need both them to be fighting. And I think Max is also like ‘fair play to Checo’. He’s done a really good job. So it adds to the title fight, we need it this season. So come on Checo!”

Perez replaced Hamilton as Button’s team mate at McLaren in 2013. Hamilton is now in his 11th season with Mercedes, and much speculation surrounds whether he will extend his contract into next year.

“I don’t think Lewis is going to walk away from the sport,” said Button. “I think as a racing driver, you have two things. One is you’re winning for so long and then you’re suddenly not, you want to fight back to winning. So you’re not going to retire.

“And then you can come at it the other way. If you’ve been in a in a bad car, you want to retire. If you’ve been there for many years in a bad car. Because it just gets you down.

“Lewis is not in a bad car. He’s in a car that’s not as good as what he’s used to. I get that. But I think he knows the strength of the team, he knows how quick he is still, so I think he’s going to work with this team to get back to fighting with Red Bull. And I think they will.

“It probably won’t be this year, but 2024, I think we’ll see Lewis Hamilton on the grid. I think he’s still hungry. He’s still hungry to win another world championship.”

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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19 comments on “Miami GP win would make Perez a true title contender – Button”

  1. Hm, well, sure, IF Perez wins another race right away at the next venue, especially if it is in a more or less direct fight with Verstappen, that builds some momentum and adds to the idea he can really challenge (if he can then keep that level up the whole year, a big if).

    But really, I would think that being close to Max next race would do more or less the same (since nobody really expects this to happen longer term, right).

    In previous seasons Perez was more often than not about 4 tenths slower in qualifying and losing out in the races as well. If he can change that to being almost as fast and sometimes a bit faster while he can show he can fight Max in races that would already establish him as a competitor.

    On top, if he does win the next round that will make it harder within the Red Bull team. They will start stressing out about how to manage the guys. Is that good for Perez? I don’t think so, since Red Bull will be under pressure to “fix” the issues Max feels are hindering him from maximizing his results (with Max being the champion who is their best bet of delivering)

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      2nd May 2023, 22:05

      The way Perez retook the lead in Jeddah and saw off Charles who apart from Verstappen does he have to beat?

      Does ORBR really care which driver wins the WDC? So long as they win the WCC at the same time it will be fine with the management.

      1. Sure, @andyfromsandy so long as RBR has the clear car advantage and Perez can keep as close to Max in qualifying pace as he has been for most races so far this year, he only has to beat Max.

        As for RBR care who wins?

        Hard to say, but I would think that they prefer having Max in the lead because they can have more confidence he will be able to bring the championship over the line once/if other teams catch up pace wise, so I do actually think that would mean the team picking Max in situations where they would have to make a direct choice.

        But if Perez starts mopping up Max in a big way in the next few races (rather unlikely, but you never know), the team is probably not going to hesitate to throw their support behind that.

  2. Neil (@neilosjames)
    2nd May 2023, 22:30

    I don’t see Perez as a contender, but I suppose a two-car, one-team championship can end up close even if one driver is obviously better. There’ll be few occasions where other cars get between them, so +6/+7/+8 will be the normal championship swing, unless there’s a retirement or other mishap affecting one car.

  3. When the car was a handful, Perez eas way off pace.

    But now, he seemed competitive. Faster than Max for a period of two days. Maybe in a year or two he could do a Rosberg, and win over current best driver.

  4. Don’t know, Perez nearly binned it when he touched the wall. Only luck got him this win, he’ll need a lot more of it if he’s going to mount a challenge.

    1. But he didn’t bin it. Max touched the wall too. Granted a little less hard. But it’s and but’s don’t matter. I agree though that it’s far from clear if Perez can sustain this level of performance. It’s the reason guys like Alonso, Max and Hamilton seem so untouchable in a top car; they essentially never have off days. They might have a slight dip from their best form, but their dips are faster than most drivers’ highs.

      More importantly, as someone above pointed out, this year’s RBR seems really easy to drive and extract the maximum. With Perez’s one advantage over Max, a seeming built-in traction control, his ability to keep rear tires in their prime can give him a key edge at tracks which have a lot of slow speed corners.

      1. ifs and buts (damn autocorrect)

      2. I have to disagree with you on Hamilton and even Alonso. They both DO have occasionally bad weekends. Hamilton just had been very fortunate to seldom have a teammate capable of punishing him for it regularly. Max having an off weekend means he is 2nd or 3rd not back in P6 or something let alone binning it…
        He’s a tough one to crack.

  5. Clearly the team are behind their million dollar boy max. Check Horners comments during Baku. So no, he is not a title contender.

  6. Only if Max couldn’t race for a few races due to some injury or whatever.

  7. I doubt he could provide a true championship challenge over the season, even if he also wins the next race.

  8. There are only one kind of number 2 drivers. They who don’t win.

  9. I’m sceptical of Perez’s title chances as I think Max will run and hide once he gets the mid season momentum. Max had a slower start to last year and when he dialled himself into the car, or the team tailored the car around him, he was imperious.

    Checo’s only possible route to the title is Verstappen dropping a number of scores through unreliability or errors and Checo is able to recover to second in the races where he is compromised. Unfortunately, for Perez, both have suffered unreliability in qualifying in the early rounds and Max was much more convincing coming through in Saudi than Checo was in Australia. They’re different circuits, obviously, but I think Australia was a really poor weekend all round for Perez and you simply can’t have more than 2 of them in a season long fight against Max.

    With regard to Verstappen dropping scores – I think Max is in danger of beating himself. In Brazil last year and Baku in the sprint he lost points in battles he simply didn’t need to contest. Experienced champions recognise that once your are the ‘hunted’ then you need to change your mentality against those with nothing to lose. Modern F1 rules mean that drivers need to come through the field several times a season, if Max can clear them with DRS then he is usually fine. But in the races where he has to fight tough, the Mercedes and Charles will push him hard.

    It’s not impossible for Max to have a couple of reliability DNFs and then lose some points to the red mist. He needs to learn from incidents like Baku to make himself a more rounded driver – on speed and aggression there’s no-one better. But championships are funny things if you don’t address your weaknesses – both can improve.

  10. I am not sure Checo is really challenging for the Championship this year. I can certainly see him winning a couple more races this season but for there to be a real challenge I think Max would have to suffer a few unreliability issues or other reasons not to finish.

    I doubt if the team themselves are too keen on there being a battle between their two drivers either.

  11. Oh yeah, to whom it may concern, Perez 2.0. Let’s wait until mid-fall. I don’t buy it.

    1. Remember after Monaco ’22? Immediate stories on him going for the WDC. Not buying it this time around either.

  12. An interesting question for me is how Max would be affected if he felt his number one status threatened. Although a top-performing Perez has no reasonable chance against a top-performing Verstappen, many former world champions were prone to underperform relative to their full potential when there was strong intra-team competition for victory.

  13. No, it won’t. Valtteri, its James is his role and RB won’t even have to enforce it because the difference will come naturally once we stop driving on Mickey Mouse street circuits and return to proper racing instead of performing revenue driving circus acts. Some people suggested the same after Monaco last season and we perfectly know how the season ended.

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