Formula 1: Sergio Perez’s toughest test is still to come

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by Michael Potts/BSR Agency/Getty Images)
Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Formula 1 (Photo by Michael Potts/BSR Agency/Getty Images) /

Sergio Perez is far from out of the 2023 Formula 1 world championship fight. But he has a massive hill to climb, given the remaining schedule.

Sergio Perez’s second place finish in the Miami Grand Prix at Miami International Autodrome was portrayed as a massive disappointment, given the fact that he fell to teammate and Formula 1 world championship leader Max Verstappen after Verstappen started eight positions behind him in ninth place.

This was one of the few races which Perez entered as the odds-on favorite to take the checkered flag, and he had no answer for his teammate, who actually managed to gain time on hard tires that were 20 laps older than those which Perez had put on during his pit stop.

Had Perez won the 57-lap race around the 19-turn, 3.363-mile (5.412-kilometer) temporary street circuit around Hard Rock Stadium, he would have taken the lead of the championship for the first time in his career. Instead, he trails Verstappen by 14 points.

A 14-point deficit is far from insurmountable in Formula 1. It can turn into a lead in the matter of a single race.

The championship battle is far from over. But the 32-year-old Mexican’s toughest test lies ahead of him.

Perez was dubbed the “king of the streets” after winning in Baku, giving him three wins in the last four street course races. But four of the 2023 season’s seven street races are now in the books, meaning that 14 of the remaining 17 events are set to be run on road courses.

Verstappen has won 10 of the last 11 road course races, including eight in a row at one point last year. Perez, meanwhile, has not yet won a road course race as a Red Bull driver.

To be able to compete for the world championship, there is no getting around the fact that Perez needs to change that in a big way.

He will likely need multiple road course wins, and he will likely need at least one instance of back-to-back victories, something that he hasn’t yet done in his Formula 1 career. In fact, Verstappen has more instances of consecutive wins than Perez has total wins.

That’s what makes Perez’s Miami defeat such a crushing blow, even compared to other Red Bull 1-2 finishes with Verstappen out front.

It was a perfect storm: pole position, Verstappen in P9, street course race, points lead up for grabs. Instead, Verstappen actually came away from the season’s first four street circuit weekends with more points than Perez (94 to 87) — and with some of his strongest tracks still on the calendar.

Of course, Perez should not be discounted. If he can keep finishing in second place in races that he doesn’t win, he should not be too far behind to capitalize when things don’t go Verstappen’s way.

But Verstappen proved in Miami that he is still the title favorite, and it’s going to take a lot more than a win here and there for Perez to change that. On road courses, that becomes extra challenging.

The season’s sixth race was scheduled to be a road course race at Imola, where Verstappen led Red Bull’s first 1-2 finish since 2016 last April. The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix was scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 21 before it was canceled due to flooding.

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As a result, the season’s sixth race is scheduled to take place at Circuit de Monaco on Sunday, May 28. Perez won the Monaco Grand Prix last year, while Verstappen won it in 2021. The race is set to be broadcast live on ESPN beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don’t miss it!