Sergio Perez was tentatively mentioned as a title contender at the start of 2023, after taking two victories from four races. Unfortunately for the Mexican, his declining form – not his title chances – has become a topic of discussion in F1 news outlets.
According to the 33-year-old, the evolution of the RB19 is one of the biggest factors explaining his struggles. A lack of confidence in the car is a common theme in interviews with the media.
Although there was no Q1 or Q2 exit in Zandvoort, the gap to Max Verstappen in Qualifying was still over a second.
An inspired strategy call from Red Bull gave Perez the race lead on lap 2, but the subsequent seventy laps showcase the pace differential between the two teammates.
Verstappen’s charge in wet conditions after clearing Zhou Guanyu was especially significant, as the Dutchman gained over a second per lap on Perez.
The 6-time Grand Prix winner believes the RB19 has gone away from this season:
“The last few races, I’ve been like a step or two behind and always thinking consciously [about] how I have to drive the car,” he told Sky Sports.
“Sometimes, with how the car has been developed, it doesn’t really suit me as much. So I have to work harder for it.
“It was different this time, obviously [in 2023], because we started the year so high. So you’re thinking you are a championship contender; you’ve won two races.
“Then, all of a sudden, you feel like, ‘Ah, this weekend doesn’t feel like it did before’.
“So you’re losing confidence because you’re not fully confident with the car.”
There have been some contradictory messages from Red Bull about Perez’s future with the team.
Christian Horner insists Checo’s 2024 contract safeguards his place in the team, whilst Helmut Marko’s statements have been less straightforward.
Ultimately, the only certainty at Red Bull is the dominance of Max Verstappen – who enjoys a blockbuster contract with the Austrian team.
At least for now, Perez’s focus will be to maintain second place in the Championship.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang