Perez: If I didn’t think I could be Champion, I wouldn’t be here

Jaden Diaz
2 May, 2023

Sergio Perez has made no secret about his objectives in Formula 1 this season, following a considerable points haul from the opening four rounds. 

The Mexican driver capitalised on an opportune Safety Car to take the lead in Baku, before keeping teammate Max Verstappen at bay for the remaining 30 laps.

Perez’s reputation as a street circuit specialist continues to grow, having converted Pole Position into victory at the Saudi GP. 

Max Verstappen’s grid penalty in Jeddah, alongside a poorly timed Safety Car, are clearly important factors to consider when assessing the opening rounds of 2023.

The reigning World Champion is still the overwhelming Champion to retain his crown, and the evidence supports this hypothesis.

However, the Mexican driver is eager to upset the script this season:

“I think, having three kids at home, I wouldn’t be travelling around the world if I didn’t believe that I could be a world champion,” he said post-race.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez of Mexico celebrates after winning the sprint race at the Baku circuit in Baku, Azerbaijan, Saturday, April 29, 2023. The Formula One Grand Prix will be held on Sunday April 30, 2023. (Lisi Niesner/Pool via AP)

“I’m working towards that, but obviously, there is so much you can talk [about] outside the car, and I think it’s important to deliver on the track.

“I think without the issues we had in qualifying in Melbourne, we should be leading the championship.

“So definitely, there is everything [every reason] to believe we can do well this year…

“I’m fighting for it, you know. But I also know that it’s a long, massive road ahead. So I need to keep my head down and just keep delivering.”

It is common for drivers to receive plenty of criticism when making such comments, especially when they are not the favourites to claim the throne.

F1 drivers (particularly those with teammates of Verstappen’s calibre) find themselves in the awkward position of balancing their self-belief with the reality of the challenge they face.

In any case, Perez’s strong start to 2023 can be compared to the impressive starts Valtteri Bottas enjoyed in 2019 and 2020 with Mercedes.

On both occasions, the Finnish driver failed to sustain his early form against the relentlessness of Lewis Hamilton – outcomes that were generally predicted by fans.

Sergio Perez could certainly fall into this category, but dismissing him from Championship contention after just four races seems somewhat premature.

To be clear, Verstappen is still the title favourite – regardless of the numerous articles (much like this one) discussing the potential of a season-long battle between the two Red Bull drivers.

With that said, for the sake of a compelling fight at the front of F1 this season, fans will hope the 33-year-old can maintain his early momentum.

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