Five Reasons Perez won’t beat Verstappen to the 2023 F1 Title

Originally a video script for WTF1 from May 2023, Dre breaks down 5 Key Reasons why Sergio Perez wasn’t going to win the 2023 Title.

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Read time: 5 mins

The 2023 Miami Grand Prix will likely go down as a humbling one for Sergio Perez and many of the fans who believe he’s a genuine threat to Max Verstappen for the World Championship. Despite starting 9th on the grid with Checo on pole, the Dutchman took just 15 laps to clear the other cars in his way, he was just as fast as Checo on Hard tyres 20 laps older after the Mexican made his only pitstop, and Max passed him easily once he switched to the Medium tyre at the end of the race. 

With Max Verstappen now firmly back in control of the title race, here are five massive obstacles we feel Checo has to overcome if he has any hope of making 2023 a genuine title fight.

1 – He Needs To Be A Much Better Qualifier

This might be a strange point to make given Perez has qualified on pole in two of the past four races, winning two of them. But overall, he’s not been able to get anywhere near close enough to match Max over a lap. From his Red Bull debut to the Miami Grand Prix in 2023, Verstappen has beaten Perez 41-8 in Qualifying head-to-head. And those eight “wins” include Jeddah 2023 where Max’s driveshaft failed in Q2, and Singapore 2022 where Max ran out of fuel on his final hot lap. Both weekends where Max looked comfortably quicker over the weekend’s running. 

And if Max Verstappen can beat you while starting 9th on the grid in Miami while you’re on pole anyway, it might not even matter. 

2 – He Needs To Become More Selfish

In Perez’s defence, it’s an understandable approach in the context of his career. When he joined Red Bull in 2021, his F1 career was hanging by a thread after Racing Point, now Aston Martin, bought the Mexican out of his contract to bring in Sebastian Vettel. Before the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix win, Perez was on 1-year contracts, giving Red Bull all the leverage in terms of term politics. It might explain why he’s been so willing to play the team game since joining the team.

Perez famously stepped aside while leading the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix, despite Max Verstappen having a faulty DRS system, when there was only 19 points separating them in the Championship. You could make an argument it was way too early for Red Bull to use Team Orders, but Perez’s willingness to go along with it in a title campaign could be seen as a sign of weakness, while Max Verstappen is known for being exceptionally ruthless on track. 

A prime example of this was Nico Rosberg in 2016, who used every trick in the book to beat Lewis Hamilton for the title. From the classic tricks of holding back information in the garage to being prepared to have the accidents he was backing out of when Hamilton was aggressive wheel-to-wheel, team status be damned. It took everything out of the German’s mentality, to the point where he felt he had to immediately retire, but not before collecting the sport’s ultimate prize.

3 – He Needs To Be More Than A Street Circuit Specialist

It’s a cool nickname to be labelled as F1’s “Street King” and there’s some merit for that. Since joining Red Bull, Perez has won five times for the team, all of them being on street tracks. But even team boss Christian Horner has admitted he’d like to see the Mexican win more on conventional circuits. 

After Baku 2023, Horner said: “He’s excelled at street circuits. Second time he’s won here, won in Singapore, won in Monaco, won in Jeddah. We just need to get him going at the proper circuits, too.”

And with Perez winning only five races to Verstappen’s 28 since becoming teammates, it was a blunt but accurate point from the team principal. Perez’s driving style is specialised in apex speed and corner exit, a style that works better on street tracks that tend to have longer straights and rewards accuracy on exit. On conventional tracks that are generally faster and more sweeping, Perez loses out compared to Max, the latter taking a more aggressive approach to corner entry. Overall, Max’s style is superior at more tracks across the calendar than Perez’s does. 

4 – Even Perez’s Unique Selling Point Needs Some Work

Managing tyres in the Pirelli era of F1 has become a vital part of winning races. And Miami 2023 was definitive proof that Checo’s known abilities as a “tire whisperer” might not be as prominent as many say.

Perez himself admitted his medium-tire stint at the start of the race cost him a chance at victory. He struggled to handle the difficult Miami conditions, having rained overnight and with the cars at maximum fuel, unable to get away from Fernando Alonso, while Max easily cleared the early traffic. When Perez switched to Hards, Verstappen actually extended his lead by a couple of seconds, when Perez should have been eating into Max’s advantage. It made the Dutchman’s win look very easy in the end. 

It’s races like Miami that can often separate the good, from the truly great drivers, and if Max is beating you at your own game, what does it say about your title credentials?

5 – The Team Is Built Around Verstappen’s Extreme Driving Style And Perez Needs To Change That

It’s hard to argue that Red Bull isn’t Max’s team at this point. He’s gone through multiple teammates since debuting for them, with every one of them (including Daniel Ricciardo), struggling to stay with him in terms of results. Perez has already lasted longer than most but he needs to do more to convince Red Bull to have a more balanced approach in development.

When writing for the Players Tribune, Max’s former teammate Alex Albon described how the setup of the team suited Max’s driving style over his: “Max likes the car set up a certain way that’s hard for a lot of drivers to sync up with. 

I like a lot of front end and nose. Basically think front-end sensitivity. When I got into the Red Bull, there was so much nose on the thing that if you blew on the wheel the car would turn. If you play Call of Duty, turn your sensitivity up to the highest it will go. That’s what it’s like to drive that car.”

And if that’s the environment that Perez has walked into, it’s going to be very difficult to topple a generational talent like Max, with the team so in sync with his needs and wants. If Perez wants to take the fight to Verstappen, he needs to be able to adapt his driving style to be able to beat Max in the same car, because his current style just isn’t working. 

Do you still believe in a Sergio Perez title campaign? Let us know in the comments, and if you liked the video, be sure to subscribe!

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Leader of a Broadcast Journalism University project that went WAY out of hand. Even managed to parlay it into a WTF1 gig for a little while.

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