Sergio Perez, having commenced the 2023 season of the Grand Prix, began by setting up a formidable challenge against two-time world champion, Max Verstappen. His efforts yielded two victories early into the season.
Nonetheless, the tide started to turn in Miami. Verstappen surged ahead of the field to dislodge pole-sitter Perez to the second spot. The Mexican driver found it increasingly challenging to match up with the Dutch champion’s pace.
Since the racing event in Miami, Verstappen has continually dominated the field. He secured nine back-to-back race wins, including nabbing both sprint victories since Miami. In contrast, this win streak left Perez’s season seemingly fizzling out. Instead of focusing on outdoing Verstappen, Perez now has to worry about the competition closing in behind him.
Perez’s 2023 performance appears to echo his season last year. He had then spoken about feeling his Red Bull‘s car’s upgrades veering more towards Verstappen’s preferences, thereby straying away from his driving style. However, after the race in Monza, Perez acknowledged he had not adapted well enough to the upgrades of the RB19 car.
The Mexican driver commented, “I think every driver through their career or through each season, you get some upgrades to the car that adapt easier to your driving style than others”. He further stated, “Sometimes you will put a part on it and you will straight away go faster with it. Sometimes you will have to adapt to it.” He admitted to his struggles with acclimatizing as quickly as he should have and ended up changing his driving style to better fit the car, which affected his performance.
His 1.3s gap to Verstappen during the Dutch Grand Prix‘s qualifying round fuelled speculation. Mercedes chief Toto Wolff was one of several who suggested that Red Bull may have designed the vehicle with Verstappen in mind, a claim Verstappen immediately discounted.
Perez contends his struggles at Zandvoort were an exception. He blamed the challenging mixed weather conditions as a contributing factor. He maintains that he is now past the roughest part of adapting to the Red Bull‘s latest model. He concluded, “Definitely I went through a bit of a tough patch through the middle of the season where I was struggling the most with the car. But I think that’s all behind us, and we should be having good races from now on.”