Sergio Perez says the development direction Red Bull have taken with their car led him to lose confidence in its handling again, as also happened last year.Max Verstappen over the first 12 races of the season. Perez also endured a run of five consecutive races in which he failed to reach the final stage during qualifying.
However he enjoyed an upswing in form before the summer break, taking a pair of podium finishes and helping Red Bull to a one-two result at the last round in Belgium. Speaking to media at Zandvoort today, Perez admitted that had been a timely development. “It was quite important to finish strong the last two races especially,” he said.
“There is no secret, as the car developed, I struggled a little bit more, things were not coming naturally anymore. I had to go very deep on them, on my driving style, adapt to it quite a bit and change it because the car has simply changed. And I think in the last two races were a lot better in that regard.”
Perez described how the changes in the RB19’s handling had made it especially tricky to master in damp, low-grip conditions.
“It’s just the sharpness, basically, at medium and high-speed that I’ve been struggling with,” he said. “And that, especially when we had tricky conditions, did change.
“It takes away some of the confidence. But I’m okay with it, it’s something that’s another challenge for me so I’m looking forward to that.”
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Getting to grips with the car’s handling is “not easy because with the amount of practice we have, you kind of follow one direction or the other and then you get stuck with it for the rest of the weekend,” Perez added. “So it is not an easy situation for a driver to have.”
While Perez was making up for his poor qualifying performances on race days, Verstappen started a run of eight consecutive grand prix victories which has all but guaranteed he will win the championship again this year. Perez said “it hasn’t been easy for me” seeing his team mate amass such a huge lead “because I know the car’s potential and Max has been exploiting that.”
“But when you don’t really have that feeling, that you know that your car has massive potential, it’s not an easy situation as a driver to be in. But certainly we’ve got a great race car and we just have to make sure we utilise it because you never know when you’re going to have a car that is as good as this one.”
He admitted he went through a similar experience with the team’s car last year. “I think in a way, yes,” he said. “It happened again.”
He is hopeful that changes the team have made during the summer break will help him get on top of the RB19.
“I think we have understood a lot of things, especially on the development side, how we can figure it out,” he said. “The team really knows what I really like and what I do feel more comfortable at.
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“We’ve done some improvements during the summer break to try to make me feel more comfortable. So hopefully this second half of the season we can show a good improvement.”
“I’m not where I want to be yet where I was in the beginning of the season where things were coming a lot more natural to me,” he added. “But we’ve done some good work, as I say, and I believe that we will only keep improving from now.”
Although Verstappen has been happier with the balance of his car, Perez does not believe the team set out to change it to favour his team mate more. “At the end of the day the team is trying to make the fastest car and sometimes the development suits one style better than the other,” he said. “That’s just how it works.”
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