Sergio Perez has indicated that Red Bull’s development of their F1 2023 car has once again moved away from him and towards team-mate Max Verstappen as the season has progressed.
The Mexican was regarded as a title contender after winning two of the opening four races in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, but has stood on the podium just four times in the nine races since as Verstappen took charge of the Championship race.
With nine rounds remaining, Verstappen leads Perez by 138 points and is almost certain to be crowned a three-time World Champion in the coming weeks.
Sergio Perez: Red Bull development has moved away from me
Following a damaging run of five races without a Q3 appearance between the end of May and mid-July, Perez appeared to steady the ship with consecutive podiums prior to F1’s summer break – but a disastrous Dutch GP weekend has led to further questions over his future with the team.
During a similar mid-season slump in 2022, Perez argued that the characteristics of the car has altered as Red Bull’s development has gradually moved towards Verstappen’s preferred driving style.
And, speaking to former Force India colleague Bernie Collins, now of Sky F1, ahead of the race weekend at Zandvoort, Perez has made a similar claim and revealed he is no longer driving the RB19 car – winner of all 13 races this season – naturally.
He told Collins: “The progression is there. For a driver, it’s really difficult to be adapting to the car instead of just things coming naturally.
“The last few races, I’ve been a step or two behind and always thinking consciously how I have to drive the car, sometimes with how the car has been developed doesn’t really suit me as much so I have to work harder for it.
“[Hungary and Spa were] good, standing on the podium, and hopefully we can keep that momentum going because at the end of the day we’ve got a great race car.”
Perez admitted he has struggled emotionally with his dramatic loss of form, having been convinced he could take the title after winning in Baku.
“It was different this time obviously, because we started the year so high so you’re thinking [that] you are a Championship contender,” he explained.
“You’ve won two races in the first four and then all of a sudden you feel: ‘Argh, this weekend [it] doesn’t feel like it did before.’
“So you’re losing confidence because you are not fully confident with the car, and in F1 if you’re not fully confident with the car up to 250kph into a corner then you are doubting a little bit more.
“It’s what really happens in those moments, because it would be easy to sit back and say: ‘It’s too hard for me and so on.’
“But at the end of the day, you just have to get on with it. Like I said, you just look forward to keep this momentum going with the team.”
Collins was by Perez’s side when he claimed his maiden victory for Aston Martin, then competing under the banner of Racing Point, at the penultimate round of the 2020 season in Sakhir.
Perez, who first arrived at the Silverstone-based team back when they were known as Force India in 2014, opened up about the challenges of swapping midfield machinery for a front-running car.
“There are a lot of things that are so different,” he said. “How you look after tyres, for example, is one of the biggest things; how you drive, it’s completely different.”
“You are able to do things [that] with the Force India car you cannot do, you cannot even think of doing.”
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