F1 needs Perez to keep performing at his best

LONDON (Reuters) – Sergio Perez may have had his best race yet at Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but Formula 1 desperately needs the Mexican to shine in a season that is turning into a tale of two Red Bull team-mates. to carry on.

The evidence from Bahrain and Jeddah suggests Max Verstappen, who started 15th on Sunday and was second at half-time, will otherwise be clinching his third consecutive title in short order.

Perez, who started from pole position under the floodlights in Saudi Arabia, and his championship-leading team-mate are separated by just a point, a fastest lap, with everyone else battling for the scraps.

The neutrals will join the Mexican fans in hopes that the 33-year veteran, signed in late 2020 as solid support for the team’s starting talent, can at least give Verstappen a chance.

Red Bull were dominant last year and so far in 2023 have been in a league of their own – with just one point (for a fastest lap) out of a maximum of 88 points available.

They’re enjoying their best start to the season ever with two double wins.

Only one driver – Mercedes’ George Russell in Brazil last November – has beaten them since July 2022 and Red Bull have won 12 of their last 13 races, with some predicting they could win all 23 this year.

Verstappen won 15 of the 22 races last year after two triumphs by Perez.

“I’ve definitely never seen a car that fast,” seven-time Mercedes World Champion Lewis Hamilton told reporters after finishing fifth in Jeddah. Continue reading

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who is familiar with series successes after his team won eight constructors’ championships in a row from 2014, saw the situation more positively.

“We’ve had these years where we’ve been just as strong, but it’s a meritocracy,” the Austrian told reporters when asked if the sport’s popularity would fall if Red Bull continued to win everything.

“Even though it’s not great for the show that the same guys always win, that’s because they did a good job and we didn’t.

“We shouldn’t downplay it because I remember hearing voices like that in 2014, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. What makes the sport so special is that you have to work hard to win and you deserve that, a fact.

“Entertainment follows sport and maybe that’s not good from a commercial point of view, but it’s what makes Formula 1 so special.”

Horner did his best to conjure up some suspense, even if it didn’t sound entirely convincing, by suggesting the situation could change once the first three races are out of the way and the upgrades start to come through.

“We have two riders within a point, each one wins one and they will push hard in the coming races,” he said.

“Albert Park (in Melbourne) has never been a happy circuit for us. We won there once, I think, back in 2011,” he added of next week’s Australian GP.

“So we’re going to go there and try to do our best.”

Perez agreed: “I think we did a great job,” he said of the Jeddah race. “I don’t know if it’s been my best weekend with the team so far, but I’m sure Melbourne can get even better.”

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Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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