Emerson Fittipaldi has sage advice for Sergio Perez – the same he had for the late Ayrton Senna years ago – as the Mexican chases dominant Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen for the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship title, suggesting he focuses on the job at hand and ignores critics.
On current form, seven wins out of seven for RBR, five going to Verstappen and two to Perez, the 33-year-old F1 veteran is the only one who can realistically prevent Max from claiming his third title in three years come the end of this season, or perhaps even sooner at the current rate.
Thus Perez needs to up his game substantially, as he did in Jeddah and Baku as Verstappen constantly raises the bar, even on a need-to basis as he did with his power shows in Monaco and Spain, setting himself for a hat-trick of wins this weekend, should he do the business again on Sunday in Canada.
Like all F1 fans, seeing Max at least fight for this year’s title, speaking to VegasInsdier, Brazilian racing legend Fittipaldi said: “Mentally, sometimes, for any athlete, it’s difficult to go through this period. Plus dealing with the criticism is difficult. My advice to Checo is the same I gave Ayrton.
“I remember at one point, late in the eighties, Ayrton was in my home in Miami Beach. He said to me: Emerson, I’m really upset with people saying this and that. If I go to another team, I’m in a situation with Ron Dennis and then I read these journalists from different places write stupid things. I could see he was really affected as an athlete. We all get affected by that.
“I gave Ayrton this advice: Focus on your driving and when you arrive at the paddock, nobody cares what people said about you. You just have to go and drive and not be affected by people who are going to judge you. You have to be yourself back again in the cockpit.”
“I think Checo Perez needs to go with the same attitude and go back.” I have had that in my life, any professional athlete at the highest level, you have people that criticize you. It’s normal. But if you start looking, reading, thinking about it, then it’s a big problem,” reckoned the 76-year-old.
Emmo: I told Ayrton, don’t look at any newspapers, just enjoy your driving.
“Go back to do what you do best, drive a racecar,” recalled Fittipaldi. “I think Checo has to do this. Mistakes can happen to anyone in F1; he has the mental strength and the car to come back strong
“Sometimes it’s a coincidence, sometimes it happens, one mistake after another. Mentally he’ll come back for sure. He’s experienced. He’s not a new driver there. He knows that he’s strong. When you’re looking at it from the outside, you think: Why did he do that? It just happens sometimes during the season.”
Being Verstappen’s teammate has not been a pleasant career path for many, the Dutch ace humbled Daniel Ricciardo out of the team, destroyed Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon and, although he has the measure of Perez, the Mexican has by far been the best of the lot, even beating Max fair and square on a couple of occasions. No one else came close in recent years.
“He will be under tremendous pressure to perform for sure but in the back of his mind, he knows that he’s on the best team, the best car. It’s just a question of getting your balance of driving fast consistently, back. And he’ll be there for sure but Checo has to focus, knowing that he can perform,” advised Fittipaldi, a double F1 World Champion and a 14-time Grand Prix winner when races were far fewer.
Perez will be looking to execute a far better weekend in Montreal than he did in Monte Carlo and Barcelona where he was plain bad and saw Verstappen’s points lead increase to 53 points ahead of Sunday’s race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.