Perez’s missed “open goal” in Miami was turning point in title fight – Horner

Formula 1

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Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has pinpointed the single moment where he believes Sergio Perez’s 2023 season started to go downhill.

Perez won two grands prix in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan as well as a sprint race victory in Baku over the opening four rounds of 2023, scoring 86 points to sit just six points behind team mate Max Verstappen. However, it took Perez a further eight rounds to double that same points tally, by which point his Verstappen’s championship lead had inflated almost 21 times to 125 points.

Ever since the end of the summer break, there has been increased scrutiny of Perez’s performance deficit. While Verstappen has won seven out of the eights grands prix held in that time, Perez secured only a single grand prix podium, at Monza.

During the recent triple-header of rounds in the Americas, Horner discussed the difficulty drivers face being Verstappen’s team mate and also why Perez’s form appeared to dip after the fourth round of the season.

“I think being Max Verstappen’s team mate is probably the hardest job in the pit lane,” Horner said. “He’s operating at such a high level and it’s relentless. So the mental aptitude that you need to be able to deal with that every time you see a piece of data, it’s like ‘wow how did he do that?’. That takes a certain strength of character to be able to deal with that.

“The form that he’s in and been in for the last three, four years, he’s just operating at such a high level that it would be tough for any driver on the grid.”

While driving skill is key to being fast, Horner says mental strength “is a huge element” for a driver being able to maximise the package they have. He believes Perez may have suffered a blow to his psyche after being beaten by Verstappen at the Miami Grand Prix, round five of the season.

“I think there was a decisive moment this year, which was probably in Miami, where Checo had if you like an open goal,” said Horner.

“He’d won two races in Azerbaijan and Saudi, and you could see his confidence was high. And I think that Max winning that race [in Miami], having been caught out by a red flag in qualifying, starting down in ninth [with Perez on pole], and that he took the lead within a very short period of time [with ten laps remaining], I think mentally that was quite a brutal one for Checo to deal with.

“And then on top of that, then came Monaco the next race, and then things compound. I think that Max is just relentless. He’s then just hitting aces every race from there onwards.”

Perez did the opposite of rebounding from his Miami defeat, as in Monaco he qualified last and finished a twice-lapped 16th while Verstappen won from pole position.

Horner thinks getting Perez back into the mental position he was in at the start of the campaign will unlock winning pace.

“If you see Checo’s performances in the first part of the year. Bahrain, very, very tight with Max, that the race in Saudi was a great race between the two of them, pushing each other really hard. Very fine margins. His race in Azerbaijan, winning the sprint and the grand prix there. Those are the kind of performances that we know he’s capable of. And I think it’s just getting him back into that mindframe and to get the most out of him, to get him back to those level of performances.”

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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...
RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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30 comments on “Perez’s missed “open goal” in Miami was turning point in title fight – Horner”

  1. Where title fight? Lol

  2. your maths seems off

    1. your maths seems off

      Hmmm, yeah. On entering the Miami weekend, the gap was 6 points. (the post Azerbaijan figures)
      Approximate doubling was achieved after Hungary, where the gap was 110.
      The gap of 125 was achieved at Spa, but Perez was at 219% of the Azerbaijan figures.

      Maybe the article used figures provided from RBR finance, working on it as a side job. :)

      1. Ahah, that’s a good one about rbr finance!

    2. Gap was 6 points, multiplying by 21 = 126

  3. That’s over six months ago. He hasn’t been on the podium in two. If anything, it’s getting worse.

    I’m sure it’s not a nice feeling to be in the best car by far and still have no chance of winning the title. That’s must be among the the worst kinds of realization an F1 driver can have about the limitations of his own talents and work.

    But alright – he’s a grown man, accept that and move on. If Pérez finished just behind Verstappen all the time nobody would blame him.

    1. In Brazil Checos qualfying was hurt by weird weather, same ass Piastri yet some how you say Checo is no good. This is the affect of the racist media in F1. Norris was second Piastri 2 laps down, lets get rid of him right? lol. Even though Checo lost out by a tiny amount to Alonso, his pace wass good. And the team screwed up by not covering the Merc pit stops forcing Checo to pass Russell a SECOND time and use up his tires. If you know anything about F1, Checo’s drive in Brazil was very impressive. Am I gonna sa he can beat Max? NO, but replacing him at RB is not that easy and has many risks. He was lesss then 0.2 sec of Max in Q1 and Q2. How many can do that?

      1. Have you forgotten that Piastri (like Ricciardo) lost one of those laps due to his car being in the garage being repaired whilst the rest of the field completed lap 2? So he was only one lap down from Norris, and McLaren have stated that he was still carrying damage from the turn 1 melee from Haas and Albon’s Williams.

  4. Didn’t Horner say yesterday it’s been a rough “6 weeks” for Perez but he’s starting to find his form again? If Miami was the turning point then that is 6 months. And sixteen races where his form has been poor compared to 4 where he had good form. At what point do you say he has indeed found his true form and it is the form he currently has and not what we saw at the beginning of the year?

    1. I mean, when you know a driver already showed better than current form, you know he’s not currently hitting his limit: take the mclaren ricciardo, after being fired no one would be interested in him, but since people know about his old red bull performances that gave him a way to get back to f1.

      1. Lance Stroll has had a few good races during his career. Would you say his form is podium contender? I wouldn’t I’d say this podiums were aberrations and his true firm is midfield backmarker. For Perez, I’d say his true form is midfield runner. I think the races at the beginning of the year were less about Perez finding his form and more about Max not figuring out how to unlock the full potential of the car.

  5. Typical nothing talk from Horner

    1. Horner is announcing he upcoming retirement ll of Perez from Red Bull. At least he should have enough for a very comfortable lifestyle here after.

  6. The question is is it really realistic to believe a drivers confidence recovers in the same environment where it was crushed?

    A driver like Albon recovered because he went to a less demanding, easier environment with much much less capable team mates. Same for Gasly.

    Perez will almost never get the chance to catch a break at Red Bull Racing. Even on his good days he’ll likely get beaten. His talent just isn’t quite enough to fight a multiple world champion in equal machinery.

    1. Depends on the world champion, unfortunately vettel replaced perez at force india, but I’m sure he had the measure of vettel at that point.

    2. @me4me

      is it really realistic to believe a drivers confidence recovers in the same environment where it was crushed?

      I think this is a very good point. Ricciardo, Gasly, Albon all found their mojo back but not in the team where their confidence was crushed. However Perez is in the autumn (if not winter) of his career and I don’t think that he will have a lot of years left in a different team.

  7. Coventry Climax
    11th November 2023, 14:57

    Let’s put this situation in another perspective and scene: If someone were to win the first three rounds in karting or even F3, to then loose out by this margin to a team mate winning the championship in the same kart/car, would we consider the guy to be a promise, a talent? Would we consider the frist three rounds to be his ‘normal self’ or the rest of the season?
    And then once such results were repeated over many seasons?

    It’s a downright miracle the guy still has a seat. And that is if he still has it, actually, which I still doubt.
    If you want to to get rid of a car, you sell it emphasizing and exaggerating it’s advantages.

    1. What a brilliant last sentence. Nice one!

      1. Like Merc did with Ocon and are trying to do with Mick Schumacher

    2. Let’s put this situation in another perspective and scene:

      Is the kart or F3 car open to significant technical development such that it can be engineered to exploit certain driving characteristics over others? If not, then this example is pointless.
      An F1 car is different almost every time it hits the track – if a driver can perform well before in-season development is implemented, but not after – how can you possibly single out the driver as being the primary or sole problem?

      It’s pretty difficult to stay standing up straight when the rug is being pulled out from under you, after all…

      Given this particular hypothetical, I’d be asking a lot more questions about what the driver wants and needs to perform at their best before jumping to any (incorrect) conclusions about how good they are.
      Verstappen is comfortable in the Red Bull car and Perez isn’t. Back at the beginning of the season, the opposite was true.
      Their respective performances and results reflect that level of comfort and resulting confidence…. There’s your answer.
      Perez, just like Verstappen and all the other drivers in F1, has a talent that requires favourable circumstances to reach the full potential. Some drivers have the benefit of that environment and some don’t.

      1. Coventry Climax
        13th November 2023, 18:36

        What a bunch of croc.

  8. After Monaco I predicted that Perez would be about 75 points behind Verstappen after the last GP before the summer break. Eventually it was 125. Checo never stood a chance. We saw the same thing with Bottas, a few good races at the start of the season, but unable to perform on such a high level for the entire season. To be able to beat Hamilton or Verstappen (as a teammate in a WDC fight) you can not afford to have any off days. Rosberg managed it because Lewis wasn’t flawless that season, plus a bit unlucky.

    1. Bottas was at least given a fighting chance, unlike Perez.

    2. Lewis has never driven a flawless season. At least to the extent that Max has this sradon.

      Russell and Button beat him too.

      Having said Lewis one of the best drivers ever.

  9. Checo’s title fight was over as soon as Max arrived in Bahrain.

    1. It was over long before he signed his first contract with Red Bull.
      Verstappen is their No.1, any other driver is seen as inferior within the team environment and will never be given complete support to maximise their performance.

  10. That race was very similar to Spa.

    He was leading and pulling away very slowly, to the point he was slower than Max stuck in traffic. Same thing at Zandvoort after the first lap too.

    To me it’s a matter of styles. Max is a perfect fit for this car and Perez probably can make a list of things he doesn’t like on it. Of course he cant admit that to the press, but he’s looking like an amateur sometimes, which he didnt in a long time with the pink team.

  11. Horner is right to pinpoint Miami:

    Perez looked defeated. Race 5.

    OK, so that was me, not Horner, after the race. But it looked all over then. I’m sure Red Bull management knew that too. It didn’t need the rest of the season to confirm it.

    1. But it looked all over then. I’m sure Red Bull management knew that too.

      Given that Red Bull engineered it that way – you’re right, they’d know.

  12. Horner is such a puppet, talking head. We all know Perez was never in the title fight and never will be as teammate to Verstappen at Red Bull.

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