Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Losail International Circuit, 2023

Gap between Perez and Verstappen “difficult to explain” – Horner

Formula 1

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admitted it is hard to understand why Sergio Perez has been so far behind his team mate in qualifying.

Although Red Bull clinched the constructors championship at the last round with a record six events to spare, following today’s qualifying session Perez has failed to reach Q3 on eight out of 17 occasions.

Perez was on course to reach the final 10 in qualifying today until his last lap time was deleted because he exceeded track limits. He ended Q1 and Q2 almost a second slower than Max Verstappen in the other Red Bull.

“Obviously the delta between the two of them is difficult to explain at the moment,” Horner told Sky.

More than half of the drivers had at least one lap time deleted for running off the track during the session.

“It was a shame for Checo,” Horner continued. “He made it to Q3 and then lost a lap time.

“We’ve just see the same thing with Oscar [Piastri] and Lando [Norris], and it’s very tough. Carlos [Sainz Jnr] as well missing it. So again Max getting the job done, a tough one for Checo.”

While Verstappen went on to claim pole position, Perez will start Sunday’s grand prix from 13th place. Horner said Perez needs “an arm around the shoulder” after his latest setback, and admitted qualifying has been a weakness for him.

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“I think it’s mentally a tough game,” he said. “All top-line sport is. And when you’re going up against a driver like Max and with the pressure that comes with it, that pressure only intensifies.

“I think Checo, we know what he’s capable of and we know that he’s a great racer and qualifying is always his Achilles heel. So we’ve just got to try and support him through these difficult moments to make sure that he comes back strong tomorrow and of course in the race on Sunday.”

While Verstappen is poised to clinch the drivers’ championship in tomorrow’s sprint race, Perez is at risk of seeing Lewis Hamilton close on him further in the battle for second place in the drivers’ championship. Horner said Red Bull will work to help him hold on to that position.

“For Checo, it’s a tough moment for him. He’s an experienced guy. He has all the pressure on his shoulders that mounts from being in one of the hottest seats in Formula 1. But I’m sure that he’ll respond to that.

“We just need to support him as a team and try and do the best to get the most out of him and make sure he finishes in that second place in the championship.”

Perez admitted he “really struggled a lot for balance” in qualifying after only having a single hour of practice to set his car up. “Every corner was pretty much different,” he said. “The conditions are very difficult but I just struggled a lot today in qualifying.”

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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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24 comments on “Gap between Perez and Verstappen “difficult to explain” – Horner”

  1. Seems to me that RBR have historically given the best equipment, personnel and driving style suitability to their number one driver.

    1. Or maybe, just maybe, Perez is just average and Verstappen is really good.

      1. not even average. An average driver would put that car at least in P3.
        He’s straight up incompetent as he’s repeatedly making mistakes a driver with his experience should never make.

        Track limits AGAIN? How dumb can he be?

      2. Perez is just average indeed and Verstappen is really good and happens to be in a car in a league of it’s own and and Red Bull don’t work like Ferrari or Mercedes or hell, Alpha Tauri in their driver pairings.

    2. Funky how that didn’t happen when Verstappen was second driver at Red Bull.

    3. pretty much. And, despite what some people would want (I believe the team boss being one), there is an air apparent of more than favoritism in the team, which makes it very difficult for someone like Perez to exist in. If hes being ‘discriminated’ against openly in the media, its very likely he does not believe in the team, nor him, which means he is going to remain in a toxic state until he leaves. So, no, he will not have any real success from now on unless his team gift him priority, which is not untypical in pro-racing, much like Honda-Repsol-Marquez or Yamaha-Rossi, etc… The deck is stacked, and Perez knows it, has to pretend like its not, and act like a fool on television. Sucks. RBR needs better leadership. And I don’t think the team boss, has any real control over it. This is a ‘cultural’ problem, one that needs to stepped on by better competition.

      1. Exactly.
        Who did Perez think he was openly declaring his aim to win the championship.
        He lost support and motivation.
        Verstappen is very very good but Perez is not that bad.

      2. Or, he is just not that good and Max is quite exceptional. That would be a more simplistic scenario. In all fairness Checo was out of F1, retired. Then he got lucky Ricciardo left RBR. Max has shown what he ahows now in evwry category he has ever competed in. 1+1=

        1. History tells us it’s not that simplictic scenario. RBR have a long history of obvious favouritism (Webber didn’t say “not bad for a number 2 driver” without reason) and will happliy undermine a driver who gets ideas of taking on their golden boy.
          If a driver of Perez’s experience and skill goes to RBR and is ground down like this to the point people claim he’s “average” (what you think that means doesn’t seem to match the word’s defininition) or even incompetent shows how bad of a team RBR is.

    4. Daniel crushing Seb in 2014 says otherwise. Max and Daniel’s time together also says otherwise.

    5. ofcourse RedBull would intentionally shoot themselves in the foot by giving one of their drivers a far worse car. Makes perfect sense to lose championship points, have less media spotlights and PR opportunities just to have their 1st driver happy. /s

      People really still believe this type of nonsense in 2023?

      1. There’s plenty of evidence to show it’s true. They’ve been like this since 2010.

      2. The sacrificed Webber to give Vettel his first championship. They then went on to show Webber even less love.
        There are many ways you can kill a driver’s motivation without tampering with the car.
        Consistently taking 1st and 4th position will win you the constructors if you have only one other team as a true competitor. When the other teams are fighting with themselves and you are far ahead, 1st and 6th is sufficient.

  2. I wonder if he can join Lance at AM’s hypercar entry.

    Still not sure what to do with Sargeant though.

    1. He can be the reserve driver at their same team!

  3. So considering all of the factors and how much more Webber weighed than Vettel; Webber did a pretty good job considering. No I won’t let this site forget how they absolutely trashed Webber. Hi Keith.

    1. He bottled it and lost the 2010 title so no, Webber didn’t do a “good” job.

      1. Considering when your teammate causes an easily avoidable accident and you’re blamed for it, not to mention putting you on such a poor stratergy in the championship finale where you’re the one ahead in said championship, I think we know the way the team’s going.

  4. Difficult to explain? Really? Helmut Marko probably has an explanation for the gap, Horner should ask him.

  5. Really? It’s difficult to explain? Maybe it’s because Perez has proven time and again that he is not even close to the level of a top tier driver. He’s not even a decent number two driver.

    1. Imagine if Red Bull had two drivers with Perez’s talent. We would all be talking about how bad Red Bull’s car is this year.

      1. We’d also be likely talking about Alonso took a car that didn’t deserve to be there within 5 points of a WDC.

  6. strange how we are talking about a red bull seat as this is not going like previous times so many drivers have been that no2 seat and lasted less than half a season yet somehow Perez is being kept, espeicially as it seems hes lost confidence

    1. Only because theyre winning despite of him.

      If they werent i bet he would be gone already.

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