Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko believes it is time for Sergio Perez to “wake up” and forget about winning the Formula 1 title after his latest qualifying disaster at the Spanish Grand Prix.
With two wins from the first five races, momentum appeared to be gathering behind Perez in a potential title battle against Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen in the dominant RB19 car.
Having been just six points adrift of Verstappen following his victory at last month’s Azerbaijan GP, however, the Mexican is now 39 behind after a tricky run of races.
Despite starting on pole position in Miami, Perez was well beaten by Verstappen from ninth on the grid in Miami before he crashed out at the first stage of qualifying in Monaco.
Perez’s troubles continued on Saturday in Barcelona, where following a trip through the gravel in Q2 he could only manage P11 as Verstappen claimed his fourth pole of 2023.
At April’s Australian GP, meanwhile, Perez was eliminated in Q1 after locking up and sliding into the gravel before he even managed to set a timed lap, having won the previous race in Saudi Arabia.
Marko has been left less than impressed by Perez’s sudden collapse and says his driver needs to reset having been carried away by the prospect of beating Verstappen to the World Championship.
He told Sky Deutschland: “With Sergio, things have not been going well since Monte Carlo. He needs to concentrate more on racing, not on the title. I hope he recovers himself.
“The whole weekend it was already the case that he was three-to-five tenths slower. It’s now the second consecutive weekend [with problems].”
Perez’s loss of form has led to comparisons being drawn with Nyck de Vries, who has struggled upon landing a full-time drive with Red Bull junior team AlphaTauri for 2023.
However, Marko has dismissed the links to De Vries’ predicament, adding: “That’s a different situation and he believed in his World Championship dream.
“Checo is getting a relatively hard wake-up call now, but I’m sure he’ll pick himself up again.”
Red Bull’s drivers have proven themselves more than capable of recovering through the field in 2023, with Verstappen salvaging second place in Jeddah after suffering a mechanical problem in qualifying and Perez eventually crossing the line fifth after his Q1 elimination in Melbourne.
Marko says the high tyre degradation expected in Barcelona could assist Perez’s cause, but fears a podium finish may be beyond him.
“The podium I think is very optimistic,” he said.
“If it gets hot then tyre wear will be higher, but a three-stop [strategy] is possible. Then it is possible that if he overtakes some cars he could still finish third, but that will be difficult.”