Helmut Marko has issued some advice to Sergio Perez after recent races have seen the Mexican lose significant ground to Max Verstappen.
After a strong start to the season in which Perez and Verstappen were neck-and-neck after the first four races of the year, Perez’s last three races have seen his championship aspirations take a serious hit.
From being a solitary point behind his Red Bull team-mate, Perez now trails him by 53 points and only has an 18-point advantage over third-placed Fernando Alonso. This was after two disappointing weekends in Monaco and Spain, in which he failed to make the podium, following a P2 in Miami on a weekend where he failed to trouble Verstappen for the win despite taking pole position.
In Monaco, a crash just seven minutes into Q1 doomed Perez to starting from the back. Always a tough ask in Monaco, Perez couldn’t make it into the points from his lowly starting position. In Spain, a mistake in Q2 cost him a position in the top 10 on the grid, and Perez could only manage fourth place at the chequered flag. Meanwhile, Verstappen romped to victory in both events.
Perez’s poor showings have led to wild speculation that his position within the team could be in jeopardy, but Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko has poured cold water on the rumours.
“It’s all nonsense,” Marko told F1-Insider.
“Sergio’s place has never been in jeopardy and will never be in jeopardy. It is an important element in achieving the goals we have set for this year. We want to finish first and second in the Drivers’ Championship and become Constructors’ World Champion as quickly as possible.”
Red Bull enjoy an ever-increasing lead in the Constructors’ Championship, with a 135-point buffer over Mercedes who have leap-frogged Aston Martin for the runner-up spot.
While Red Bull clearly still have a pace advantage over the nearest rivals, they fear a resurgence from the likes of Mercedes, given the aero testing restrictions that apply to them as reigning Champions and their punishment for breaching the 2021 budget cap.
With Perez’s consistency needed in order to ensure Mercedes or another team do not catch up, Marko revealed the advice he gave Perez in the wake of his poor showings recently.
“After his rather weak performances in Miami and Monaco, I just reminded Sergio that he should concentrate on his job,” he said.
“There he didn’t take advantage of the possibilities that were in him. In the team with Max, he has an opponent who is very difficult to beat. And not just from him, but from all the drivers on the grid at the moment.
“He should therefore concentrate on himself and not try desperately to beat Max. He should be there when things aren’t going optimally for Max. Sergio’s good race after the failed qualifying session in Barcelona was again the first step in the right direction.”
While Christian Horner has downplayed the possibility that Red Bull could win every race in 2023, Verstappen has admitted the ingredients are there to allow for such an eventuality – no team in the history of the sport has ever managed it, although McLaren came close in 1988 with 15 wins from 16 races, with only misfortune costing them the 16th.
“In terms of sheer performance, we’re capable of that,” Marko commented.
“After all, it’s not an exaggeration to say that we’re going into all the races as favourites. But then you shouldn’t have bad luck. And with 15 races still to go, something can happen quickly. It could get us in Montreal next week. The probability of realising this dream only increases if both cars are capable of winning.”