Formula 1: Sergio Perez situation takes a disastrous turn

Sergio Perez is at risk of dropping to seventh place in the Formula 1 world championship standings after yet another lackluster performance in Austria.
Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Formula 1
Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Formula 1 / Chris Graythen/GettyImages

Sergio Perez's seventh place finish in Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix was his best finish in the five most recent Formula 1 races, which puts into perspective just how poor his form has been since he started the year with four podium finishes in five races. After that start, he found himself in second in the world championship behind Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen.

At the moment, it seems that there are three tiers when it comes to the top four teams: Verstappen in one, the McLarens, Ferraris, and Mercedes in another, and then Perez in the other. In qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, for instance, it was Verstappen on pole, those other six cars from second to seventh place, and Perez in eighth.

Of this group, the only two drivers Perez finished ahead of on Sunday were McLaren's Lando Norris, who was involved in a late incident with Verstappen while battling for the win, and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, who was never able to fully recover from opening lap damage.

Following that collision with Norris, Verstappen limped to the pits with a flat tire for an unexpected pit stop, received a 10-second time penalty, and still finished with the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg between himself and his teammate.

But worse yet for Sergio Perez is who benefited from the incident.

It was Mercedes' George Russell who moved from third to the lead and won the race after Verstappen and Norris collided, and it was McLaren's Oscar Piastri who moved from fourth to a career-high second.

If you thought Perez's recent drop from second to fifth place in the standings was bad, how does a further drop to seventh sound?

Perez still sits in fifth place with 118 points, notably less than half of Verstappen's total, but he is now just six points ahead of Piastri in sixth and seven points ahead of Russell in seventh.

Piastri and Russell have both finished ahead of Perez in every single one of the last five races. Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton, who sits a little bit further back in eighth place, has also beaten Perez in five consecutive races.

While there are doubts about whether Red Bull do truly remain Formula 1's top team, given not only McLaren's recent resurgence but the fact that four teams have now stood atop the podium in the last two months, the fact is that Verstappen continues to run at the front of the field and win races while Perez has become a mid-pack runner on a weekly basis.

In the last five races, Perez has an average starting position of 12.4 and an average finishing position of 12.0. Verstappen won three of those five races and, given the track limits penalty on Norris that should have been announced before Sunday's decisive incident was allowed to unfold, it probably should be four of five.

A drop to seventh place in the driver standings while competing for a team leading the constructor championship would be alarming, to say the least, for the 34-year-old Mexican.

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Perez did recently sign a two-year contract extension to stay with the Milton Keynes-based team, but just how watertight is that deal, and will there end up being a reason to find out?