As the points gap to Max Verstappen grows more daunting still for Sergio Perez, Red Bull boss Christian Horner believes this actually can work in the Mexican’s favour.
The reset of a new season allowed Perez a fresh shot at achieving his goal of sustaining a title challenge against Verstappen, something that no driver has managed to do in Red Bull colours.
The early signs were promising as Perez claimed two wins in the opening four rounds, but a nightmare weekend in Monaco and P16 finish let Verstappen off the hook as he claimed victory in dominant fashion.
That saw Perez change focus from the title exclusively to maximising his points scoring, though a P4 in Spain while Verstappen took another win and the fastest lap bonus point means the gap is now 53 points.
It was a tough weekend then for Perez who had suffered Q2 elimination on Saturday, but rather than letting the recent struggles get him down, Horner urges Perez to use this as reason to release the pressure put on himself and “just drive like we know he’s capable of”.
Asked by Sky F1 if Perez does really have what it takes to bring this title battle to Verstappen, Horner replied: “I think if you look at the points now there’s a big split between the two of them, and I think if anything that should take pressure off him.
“He has nothing to lose now and I think he just needs to relax, he can breathe out and just drive like we know he’s capable of, like he did in Azerbaijan and some of the early races this year.
“And I think today was a good recovery from him and I think that’ll give him confidence as we head to Montreal.”
Horner was also keen to point out the size of the challenge which he believes Perez has in going up against Verstappen as his team-mate.
The Spanish GP was a further show of dominance from the reigning World Champion who won with a margin of 24 seconds over Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes, and Horner is confident that no racing driver could have got the better of Verstappen on that day in the Red Bull RB19.
Horner then went back to this theory that Perez can return to form simply by way of the growing deficit releasing the weight of expectation.
“I mean being Max Verstappen’s team-mate, take nothing away, there is not a driver out there today I believe that would have beaten Max in that car today,” said Horner.
“So he’s I guess a driver that is at the top of his form and that’s very tough.
“I mean, as you know [looks to Nico Rosberg], you’ve experienced that as well at certain times, and I think [for] Checo, mentally it’s a really tough thing to deal with.
“But as I say, I think now there is that separation in the points, that may actually take the pressure off him a little and the expectation he’s putting on himself, he needs to let go of that now and just be free to drive.”
And his first opportunity to potentially put the advice of his team boss into action will come at the Canadian Grand Prix, which takes place on June 18.