Not too long ago, some viewed Sergio Perez as a legitimate Formula 1 world championship threat. Max Verstappen hasn’t failed to win a race since.
When Red Bull’s Sergio Perez took the pole position for the Miami Grand Prix at Miami International Autodrome and teammate Max Verstappen only managed to qualify on the fifth row in ninth place, Perez became the betting favorite to win the race — and therefore to take the lead of the Formula 1 world championship for the first time in his career.
Even if Verstappen had rallied from ninth place to finish in second behind Perez with the fastest lap, Perez would have exited Miami as the points leader due to having the wins tiebreaker (three to two) over Verstappen.
But since that qualifying session, Verstappen has won all seven Grands Prix that have been contested and opened up a 110-point lead — more than four full wins — over Perez in the point standings.
As is the case during any driver’s era of dominance, some like to attribute Verstappen’s success to the fact that he is driving the strongest car on the grid — and nothing else. There is no doubt that the RB19 is the class of the field, but it’s not as far ahead of the other nine cars as you’d think.
During Verstappen’s seven-race winning streak, Perez has only once placed second behind his teammate, and that was when Verstappen started in ninth with Perez on pole. Perez has just two other podium finishes during this stretch, and four other teams have placed a driver in the runner-up spot.
In fact, three teams other than Red Bull have recorded multiple runner-up finishes, with an additional team having recorded multiple podium finishes.
Following his Miami victory from ninth place on the grid, Verstappen went on to reel off five straight pole positions. Compared to his race day pace, qualifying had been a (relative) weakness for Verstappen prior to this year. Yet during that same five-race stretch, Perez qualified no higher than 11th.
If it were truly down to the car and the car alone, we’d be seeing 1-2 finishes left and right. We haven’t seen one in nearly three months.
So while certain pundits were offended when Verstappen pointed to the “1” on his race car following a Miami Grand Prix he wasn’t supposed to win, maybe that reminder was a necessary one.
Verstappen’s 2023 season consists of nine wins and two runner-up finishes, and going back to last season, he has won 10 of the last 12 events. This year alone, his average finish is 1.18. The closest comparison to it is Michael Schumacher’s legendary 2002 season, when he won 11 races and finished on the podium in each of the other six.
And look at everything that had to happen to produce those two runner-up finishes.
In Jeddah, a driveshaft issue in qualifying meant that Verstappen was forced to start in 15th place, and he still managed to rally to finish in second. In Baku, an untimely safety car while he was leading the race mired him back in third, and he didn’t quite have enough to take back the lead.
Those are the types of crazy situations that have needed to happen to keep Verstappen from standing atop the podium. Looking back, it’s crazy to think about the fact that some actually felt Perez had an advantage in this title fight.
Verstappen is set to go for an eighth straight Formula 1 victory in this Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, which would put him one win shy of the all-time record. This race is set to be broadcast live on ESPN from Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps beginning at 9:00 a.m. ET. If you have not yet had the chance to do so, begin a free trial of FuboTV today!