Perez isn’t about to ease the pressure on himself as Verstappen pulls away

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Sergio Perez had much to be pleased about after the first four races of 2023. He picked up a victory from pole position in Jeddah then took a second win in Baku.

When he claimed pole again for round five in Miami he had a clear shot at overturning Max Verstappen’s six-point lead and taking the championship table for the first time in his career.

“I’m mentally very strong and that’s my biggest strength and that has always been,” said a confident Perez ahead of the Miami Grand Prix. “It’s not easy being Max’s team mate because he’s delivering all the time and he’s winning all the time.

“We’ve seen it in the past, It’s not easy for a team mate to survive, but I believed in myself, but I had to go very deep into understanding the whole concept of the car and making sure that I put the right tools in and in place to be able to fight.”

Race start, Miami International Autodrome, 2023
Miami pole gave Perez a shot at the championship lead
He had arrived in Miami on a high from his performance in Azerbaijan, where in addition to victory in the grand prix he had also won the sprint race.

“Obviously when you win the race on pure pace, you’ve done better than your team mate,” said Perez in the build-up to the Miami race. “I’m sure that Max and his team are going to have a look at that and make sure they understand.”

Three races on from those comments, however, Perez has only given away points to his team mate. To start with, he missed a clear opportunity to extend his margin that weekend, as he took pole position yet Verstappen beat him to victory from ninth place.

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He was eliminated early during qualifying in Monaco Grand Prix, fuming with himself after hitting the wall at Sainte Devote during Q1. “We’ve paid the price for my mistake and that’s been very costly,” said Perez after the race. “I just have to apologise to my whole team because it is unacceptable to have this kind of mistake. I just have to move on and learn from it.”

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Miami International Autodrome, 2023
Verstappen passed Perez for first of three wins in a row
He admitted to the media that he “cannot afford another zero in the championship” if he is going to challenge his team mate for the title. He avoided that in Spain, yet still gave away more precious points to Verstappen.

Having barely made it through to Q2, another mistake in qualifying at the Circuit de Catalunya cost Perez heavily. Ending up in the gravel at turn five on his flying lap, ruining his tyres, he had no time to pit for a fresh set which left him 11th on the grid.

Although he salvaged fourth in the race, he also lost a place to George Russell off the start which he never recovered, marking the first time a Red Bull had been beaten by a car which started behind it last week. Nonetheless, team principal Christian Horner believed Perez should have taken heart from his performance.

“I think for him, that will give him a lot of confidence,” said Horner after the race in Spain. “He’s had a difficult Monaco, difficult Saturday here, a stronger Sunday.”

Moving to dampen any potential fires behind the scenes, Horner indicated Perez may feel he can go a bit easier on himself in his title fight with Verstappen.

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“Looking at the gap now between the two drivers, which is pretty significant, in many respects that will take pressure off his shoulders and I think that’ll allow him just to now relax, not put pressure on himself and just re-find the form that he had in those early races.”

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Circuit de Catalunya, 2023
Errors in the last two qualifying sessions hurt Perez badly
However Perez’s reaction to dropping 39 points to Verstappen in two races was anything but relief at the thought he no longer needs to push himself so hard. Asked yesterday if he now felt under less pressure to match Verstappen he answered: “I don’t think so.

“I think we always have to deliver to our maximum and we just have to make sure we deliver. We have a great car and we should be having a lot of podiums, wins and so on, from now until the end of the year.”

Verstappen’s start to the season has been close to flawless. He only gave points away to his team mate in Jeddah, where a technical problem in qualifying delayed the world champion, and Baku, which has always been one of Perez’s strongest tracks.

“He has been able to deliver when it matters, in qualifying, and he hasn’t had a bad weekend at all this year,” Perez admitted. “I think it’s what I need.

“I cannot afford to have any bad weekends any more. I’ve had two or three bad weekends in the season, so I really have to get rid of those and keep the consistency high because I think it’s something that Max has been really good and consistent throughout this period.”

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Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 2022
Qualifying in Canada did not go well for Perez last year
With a contract holding him at Red Bull until the end of next year, there is no reason to believe Perez is about to be replaced. He is holding his own as the perfect number-two driver for Verstappen whilst collecting a healthy amount of points each weekend. While he may be hankering for more, there’s no indication Red Bull are dissatisfied with their driver situation.

But that won’t stop Perez pushing himself to deliver more and offer the kind of challenge to Verstappen which the first four races suggested he was capable of.

“I basically want to reset and go again,” he said yesterday. “Basically, Monaco was all down to me, I had a really bad mistake. Then in Barcelona, in the qualifying again, it was tricky with the damp conditions. We didn’t manage to have a good quali and then we paid the price on Sunday.

“So I’m looking forward to getting back to the form we had in the early season.”

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Author information

Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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6 comments on “Perez isn’t about to ease the pressure on himself as Verstappen pulls away”

  1. The Dolphins
    16th June 2023, 18:14

    Doesn’t sound like Christian is rooting for him (yes, perhaps a very obvious statement to some.) The unfortunate reality for Sergio is even if he gains the lead in the drivers championship Red Bull can pull the rug out from under him and put put Daniel in his car and allow Max to re-take the lead.

    1. Though then at the least he knows that he himself did everything he could, which is likely worth a lot.

    2. Imagine the PR if they did that, there’s just no way they would do that, they let the fastest driver win and as it’s the case it’s verstappen; no blame to perez, there’s not many who would be able to compete with verstappen, but can’t blame number 1 status for this.

  2. Why are we still talking about this? It is completely unrealistic to think Perez comes anywhere near Verstappen over the course of a season. Former multiple world champions would struggle with it.

  3. Well, Perez shouldn’t put pressure on himself, he should put pressure on Verstapen. Maybe that is the problem. Anyway, I can’t see Perez maintaining the same level as Verstapen for the whole season – that is the biggest difference between them. And Perez knows that deep inside.

  4. Oof.. I don’t know why he didn’t choose a better wording. This is now a slightly painful read right after Q

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