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Helmut Marko Describes Disappointment for Pérez in Spain and Monaco as ‘Wake-up Call’

Written by Ellie Nicholls, Edited by Meghana Sree

Image Credits: NurPhoto / Getty Images

Barcelona brought yet another good result for Max Verstappen: starting from pole position, he led the race from start to finish and also set the fastest lap. After three consecutive victories, increasing his total to five wins in 2023 so far, the season appears to be going very favourably for the Dutch driver. Verstappen is yet to go a race without a podium, with his lowest finish being 2nd place, and he is currently 53 points ahead of his nearest rival for the title. ‘Very lovely’ indeed, as he puts it.

Red Bull overall have enjoyed a very successful start to the season. In the constructor’s championship, the Austrian team now find themselves well over 100 points clear of second-place Mercedes after winning every race so far this season, including the sprint race in Azerbaijan.

The dominance of the RB19 and the team itself is becoming ever clearer with every race that goes by. So, why exactly is Sergio Pérez starting to fall behind?

Image Credits: Christian Bruna/Getty Images

While his teammate is winning races by ever-increasing margins, Pérez has been without a podium for the last two races– one of which was the only point-less finish for Red Bull so far this season. But, as he is yet to experience any major technical issues and has proven in the past to be not only a competent driver, but a competitive one too, where exactly does the issue lie?

Looking at the race results alone, there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer to be found. Free practice sessions as well as his pace on Sundays confirm that he is more than capable of producing competitive lap times, matching and even beating the times set by those at the very front of the field. Nor can his loss in performance be attributed to racing incidents or technical failures, as both Red Bull cars are yet to retire from a Grand Prix.

No, what seems to be letting Pérez down at the moment are not errors during the races, but mistakes in qualifying.

The first instance of this was in Australia, where Pérez struggled with the car throughout free practice before beaching the car in the gravel early into Q1. He was, as a result, unable to qualify, and started the race in 20th, before making his way up to 5th during the race.

In Monaco, he hit a wall in Q1, causing him to qualify at the back of the grid– a far cry from the performance you might expect from the Mexican driver considering that he won the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix and had since been nicknamed ‘King of the Streets’. While his teammate started the race from pole position and claimed the victory by significant margins, Pérez was unable to advance further than 16th place, stuck behind backmarkers in a race notorious for its lack of overtaking.

Image Credits: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

And this weekend in Barcelona, his qualifying was yet again ruined by a mistake on a push lap that caused him to spin into the gravel. Although he was able to get the car back onto the track for another attempt, his tyres were too damaged to allow him to advance into Q3, and he qualified 11th. During the race he was able to make up quite a few places, ultimately finishing just outside of the podium in 4th– still a frustrating 3 seconds behind George Russell, who started the race in 12th.

Pérez’s results this season have been far from disastrous, with two race wins as well as a sprint race victory already under his belt. But he is now more than fifty points behind his teammate, which is equivalent to over two race wins. Whether the series of mistakes in qualifying are as a result of pushing too hard or not quite finding the balance of the car yet, it is having a significant impact on his place in the championship.

Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko voiced his opinions on Pérez’s underperformance to Sky Germany, suggesting: “He needs to concentrate more on racing, not on the title”. After what he describes as two consecutive race weekends with problems, Marko believes that this is the wakeup call Pérez needs after the series of mistakes in qualifying. However, Marko is not the only one raising questions over his performance.

Image Credits: ATPImages/Getty Images

Nico Rosberg, a pundit for Sky Sports and a one-time Formula One World Champion, questioned Red Bull team principal Christian Horner about the gap between Verstappen and Pérez at the Spanish Grand Prix, saying: “[...] I thought it was quite a lack of performance, especially during the early part of the race.”

Though Horner was quick to counter that Rosberg was being too harsh on the drivers, arguing that Pérez simply had a bad start to the race before a good recovery, there does seem to be some truth in Rosberg’s statement. After all, Verstappen was able to finish in second place in Jeddah after qualifying 15th due a technical fault. He even went on to win in Miami from ninth on the grid after an unfortunately timed red flag in qualifying.

And, no matter how good his pace on Sunday may have been, surely Red Bull don’t want Pérez to be driving recovery races every weekend while Verstappen is consistently achieving wins and podiums in the same car.

If Pérez truly wishes to bring the title fight to Verstappen and win his first world championship, it is vital that he starts to produce more consistent results in qualifying– or his future with Red Bull may soon be called into question.

1 comment

1 коментар

07 черв. 2023 р.

Perez aside, the sooner Marko takes his leave from F1 the better. He can be praised for bringing guys into F1, but also for cutting them off too. Perez is a smart boy, he doesn't need Marko validating his 'advisor' role or whatever he does for Red Bull by mentioning this nonsense. His gameplay of getting on drivers backs and being critical is very boring and tiresome. Helmut Marko will always be a poor mans Niki Lauda. He isn't as funny, not as succesful as a driver or a people manager. Not sure that having him lurk about the team is a good look for Red Bull anymore. I hope Vettel or Ricciardo are lined up to come in a…

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