More fighting talk from Sergio Perez as he narrows gap to Max Verstappen

Jamie Woodhouse
Max Verstappen applauds Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez. Azerbaijan, April 2023.

Max Verstappen claps as Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez celebrates victory in Baku. Azerbaijan, April 2023.

Sergio Perez reaffirmed that he is here in Formula 1 to become World Champion and rates his chances rather highly after victory in Baku.

An erratic showing for Perez last time out in Australia had suggested that perhaps his Jeddah win was only the false dawn of an F1 2023 title challenge against team-mate Max Verstappen.

But Perez’s Azerbaijan weekend said otherwise, the Mexican racer once again proving his might around street tracks by taking the chequered flag on Sunday with a margin of two seconds over Verstappen, making it a sprint and Grand Prix victory double.

Perez went into the Baku race weekend 15 points behind Verstappen in the Drivers’ standings, but has now reduced that to six with another street track coming next as Formula 1 heads for Miami.

It is nothing new to hear Perez say that he would not be in Formula 1 if he did not believe he could become World Champion, but the pair of Baku wins has certainly added a huge extra shot of momentum and belief for Perez that F1 2023 could be his year.

“It’s a track where you require a lot of confidence, a lot of corners, and you see that a lot of drivers clip walls during the race,” Perez told Sky Sports F1 of the Baku track. “It’s all about confidence, lap after lap and making sure you’re on top of your car.

“Having three kids at home I wouldn’t be travelling around the world if I didn’t believe I could be a World Champion. I’m working towards that, there’s so much you can talk about outside the car, it’s important to deliver on the track.

“I think with all the issues we had in qualifying in Melbourne we should be leading the Championship, definitely there is everything to believe we can do well this year.”

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It is starting to look very unlikely now that the F1 2023 title battle will be anything other than a straight fight between Verstappen and Perez, so Perez was asked what his mindset is for this contest and whether he will look to try and get inside Verstappen’s head, a driver who was not in the best of moods throughout the Baku weekend, thanks to George Russell and sprint races.

Perez though does not believe any tricks or mind games will be needed, stressing that his relationship with Verstappen is “great”, and that they are far more similar than people believe in terms of their life on and off the track.

“It’s a great relationship between Max and myself,” said Perez. “Because although not many people believe, we are very similar.

“We have a life out of the sport and when we are at home we pretty much disconnect from it. When we are on track, we come to try to do the best possible job, we try to beat each other. I’m sure Max will look at my data, we’ll look at his and we are just pushing each other massively. I think this year is about not making those mistakes.”