With back-to-back wins, Max Verstappen has effectively forced Formula 1 fans to give up the idea that Sergio Perez is “king of the streets”.
Two races ago, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was seen as a legitimate contender for the 2023 Formula 1 world championship, sitting just six points behind teammate and two-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen in the standings after winning the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at Baku City Circuit for the second time in the last three years.
Damon Hill, among others, even went on record after this race and said that Perez now had the advantage in the title fight. Various media outlets tried to create conflict within the Milton Keynes-based team, with some going as far as making up stories about Verstappen wanting Perez, dubbed the “king of the streets”, to be replaced.
The next race on the schedule was a street course race in Miami, and a victory would guarantee Perez the lead of the world championship for the first time in his Formula 1 career. All five of Perez’s victories as a Red Bull driver had come in street course races.
Buoying expectations for Perez was the fact that he took the pole position in Miami. Momentum was clearly on his side. Additionally, a qualifying mishap and subsequent session-ending red flag left Verstappen starting in P9 on a circuit where passing was expected to be a challenge. Everything was aligning for the 33-year-old Mexican.
But Max Verstappen put on a tire saving masterclass and rallied past his teammate in the closing laps to extend his lead atop the Formula 1 standings.
Then in Monaco, Perez crashed out of qualifying, and Verstappen ran a legendary sector three on his final lap to steal the pole position from Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso. He went on to lead all 78 laps. When wet conditions arose, he didn’t put a wheel wrong, and he won the race by more than 27 seconds.
Perez failed to score any points with a 16th place finish, two laps off the lead lap, and with four wins and two runner-up finishes, Verstappen now owns a 39-point lead in the standings, just six races into the 2023 season.
Of the 16 remaining events, 14 are road course races. Verstappen has won 10 of the last 11 road course races, including eight in a row at one point. Just two are street course races.
And despite his teammate’s “king of the streets” moniker, Verstappen has won three of the last four street course races, including the last two. In fact, Verstappen has outscored Perez by 32 points in the five street course races that have been run this season.
Maybe the street course crown has changed hands. Or maybe it was simply always Verstappen’s, but the media couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try to hype up a title battle that still appears to be very one-sided.
The next race on the schedule is the Spanish Grand Prix, the first road course race since the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix at Bahrain International Circuit. The race is set to be broadcast live on ESPN from Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET this Sunday, June 4. Begin a free trial of FuboTV and don’t miss it!