ADVERTISEMENT
perez crash mexico gp-001

Horner: Tough moment but you can’t blame Perez

perez crash mexico gp-Horner: You can’t blame Perez, a tough moment for him

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner exonerated and even praised Sergio Perez after the local hero got himself punted out of the 2023 Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, breaking 400,000 hearts in the packed stands in less than a kilometre from the start.

It was a painful DNF for a driver, adored by the 400k fans packed into the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez heaving with passion and expectation. It was cruel for them all plus the driver to be eliminated in such a manner. A racing incident, all concerned agreed.

After a race in which Max Verstappen dominated once again for Red Bull, Horner backed his beleaguered second driver when he told Motorsport Network: “I’m absolutely gutted to see Checo go out on the first corner. He had probably his best start of the season, got the draft and the tow from the three cars ahead, so arrived with massive over-speed.

ADVERTISEMENT

“You can’t blame him, at his home race, going to try to take the lead of the grand prix. I think you’d have to call it a racing incident, because three into one doesn’t go, and Charles, obviously, couldn’t get out of it and he braked late.

“Frustrating for Checo, and really disappointing for his fans to lose him at the first corner. The guys did their best to get him back out but there was just too much damage to the floor and underbody of the car. You could see on the replay that Charles was in a bit of a Red Bull sandwich.”

Horner: It could have been an interesting afternoon

GP von Mexiko: Sergio Pérez Horner: It could have been an interesting afternoon

After the incident, Horner revealed how consoled Perez when the driver ventured onto the pit gantry: “It’s a tough moment for him. It was in front of his home crowd, and he was very emotional, I just said to him: The next race is next week. You’re going for the lead in your home race, you wouldn’t be a racing driver if you weren’t going for it.”

The DNF for Perez could prove to be expensive in his battle for second place in the 2023 F1 World Championship for Drivers‘ with Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton. The Mexican has 240 points to the Briton’s 220 with three GPs and a Sprint Race to score points.

“I think he would have been on the podium for sure without a shadow of a doubt. It’s a big loss for him here with a car that was capable of being on the podium,” reckoned Horner.

While the Perez camp is desperately seeking the form their driver had when he beat Verstappen fair and square in Jeddah and Baku early in the season, Horner believes F1 was denied an interesting duel on Sunday: “It would have been a straight fight between the two of them.

“So it could have been an interesting afternoon. Checo had a good pace this weekend, it’s just frustrating that it was a first-corner incident. That was my fear going into the race,” lamented the RBR team boss.

Horner: Checo has three races to convert that second place

BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - APRIL 30: Race winner Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on April 30, 2023 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Red Bull have never had their drivers finish one-two in the final WDC standings, it would be a first this season if it does happen, and should considering Perez is driving the most dominant car ever seen in F1, in the hands of his teammate at least,

Looking ahead to the final trio of races – sao Paulo, Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi – Horner said: “Checo’s got three races to convert that second place. There are 20 points between him and Lewis. He’s had some misfortune, he’s had some issues, but we still believe he can do it between now and the end of the year.

“He’s a tough operator, and that’s why he’s in the car, because mentally, he’s always been able to bounce back. He’ll brush himself down and he’ll turn it into motivation. A sprint race in Brazil. Las Vegas, a street circuit, he’s always run well at street circuits. Abu Dhabi, he’s always been competitive there as well.”

Finally, Perez’s spiralling form and inconsistent performances since the Miami Grand Prix have sparked calls for him to be replaced even before his contract runs out at the end of 2024. With Daniel Ricciardo showing shades of his old self at AlphaTauri, even outqualifying Checo on Saturday.

It was a big statement by the Australian who makes no secret of his desire to be Verstappen;’s teammate again. But Horner is adamant Perez has the team’s backing: “He’ll have the full support of the team to try and achieve something that we’ve not done before.”