It is hard to remember when a Formula 1 driver who one moment was fighting for the Title, and suddenly fighting to keep the best seat in the sport – with Red Bull – which is the case of Sergio Perez.
Seldom has a driver’s form disappeared as it has with the veteran Mexican driver who is simply getting ‘murdered’ by his teammate and appears to have no answer to get back to his best. The Checo we saw in Jeddah and Baku has gone AWOL.
Adding insult to injury, Pérez hasn’t qualified in the top ten for five races in a row after ending P16 in qualifying for the British Grand Prix. He later moved up a place after Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas was disqualified.
Visibly dejected after his lowly qualifying, Perez told Sky F1: “The red flag lasted a lot longer than we thought, so we ended up waiting (at the end of the pit lane) for a long time. That was a bit unfortunate. Initially, I couldn’t get enough temperature into the tyre.”
For a driver renowned for his amazing abilities in trying conditions, like those at Silverstone today, Perez’s candid admission was alarming: “I’ve been struggling in these conditions with the car lately. My problems with the car become more apparent in these conditions. It’s something we have to understand as a group to figure out and get to the bottom of it.”
Commentating for Sky F1, 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button weighed in on Perez’s performance and blamed the team: “It wasn’t bad luck. He didn’t get a lap before the red flag and after the red flag as a team they probably made a mistake of trying to put him out there first.
“But then he’s sat at the end of the pit lane and his tyres are cold. The last guy on the circuit is normally the quickest in that situation. It’s a bad strategy call but some of it is down to Checo not putting the team under pressure by not getting in the lap before that.”
Whatever the case, there was time early on to put in a banker which Perez has failed to do too often of late. It was not as if he was the only Red Bull in trouble because at one point in Q1 Verstappen broke his front wing exiting his pit garage. That was a hindrance, but failed to deter the World Champ.
Checo: For now, we need to look forward
At the end of a chaotic and interrupted session the timing screens made for harsh reading for Perez’s side of the garage, he was P16 a full second down on the top time, and a half second shy of Verstappen’s best effort which was good for fifth, in a very tight pack from first to tenth.
Perez remained upbeat despite another setback in a stumbling run of form, at a time when he should be raising his game to at least come second to his teammate, and forget about trying to beat Max and focus on being second best. Because that is his reality.
He added later in the team report: “We had a good session yesterday so, for now, we need to look forward to tomorrow and just aim to get any many points as possible. It’s going to be difficult to come through the field but we will try our very best.”
That best needs to include qualifying, as increasingly for Red Bull the temptation must be to put Daniel Ricciardo in the car to see if the Aussie can give Max a run for his money or at least keep up. Because for now, Perez is simply not delivering for a team at that level.
Perhaps the best piece of advice came from Helmut Marko, who in the end will decide when Perez is a liability, before the British Grand Prix the Doctor told reporters: “Sergio has not been doing well since Monte Carlo. He needs to focus on the racing, not the title. Hopefully, he can recover. All weekend he was three to five-tenths slower.”
Nothing changed has changed and we are at Round 10, Silverstone.
Perez might find inspiration from Verstappen’s P14 to P1 victory in Belgium last year with the Red Bull RB18, the best car on the grid. With this year’s RB19 even better, second place should be doable. Anything less and the Mexican’s F1 shares will take a dangerous dip. And really he needs to figure what the hell is going on… with himself!
For now, it seems the team is backing him. Although Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko told Sky Sport that Pérez “needs to work on” his qualifying performances but was doing well in races, the Austrian insisted: “There isn’t anyone who could replace him.”