‘I cannot be this bad’ – Sergio Perez’s rally cry in F1 2023 struggles

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.

Sergio Perez heads into the final year of his current Red Bull contract in 2024.

At the end of a season marred with disappointment, Sergio Perez says Qatar was the low point of the campaign that had him questioning “I cannot be this bad” a driver.

Despite being Max Verstappen’s nearest, and only, challenger in the early part of the 2023 championship, Perez’s campaign fell apart in the midst of a qualifying slump that destroyed his confidence in himself and the RB19.

But seeming to bounce back in Hungary, in part with the help of a sports psychologist, he hit a second slump in Japan when he retired after crashing into Lewis Hamilton and followed that up with a P10 in Qatar.

Sergio Perez reveals Qatar ‘I cannot be this bad’ moment

That latter weekend he started the race from the pit lane following a crash in the Sprint and could only recover to 10th place despite being in an RB19 that in the hands of Max Verstappen won the race.

That was an awakening if you will for Perez.

“Because Qatar was really the worst weekend I remember in a while, probably my worst weekend ever in the sport,” he revealed to Motorsport.com.

“It was such a bad weekend that I really felt like: ‘I cannot be this bad, there’s something that’s going on’.

“When you have these back-to-back races, I feel like sometimes there is not enough time to really go through it all. So, I felt like we really had to take a bit of time to make sure that we understood which way we were going.

“Obviously, we had a deficit within the car setup that we were playing around [with] weekend by weekend and we were just not able to progress through it.

“But once we managed to get on top of that, we understood a lot of things that we were trying to compensate for. And that just basically meant that we were not just not doing things right.

“I think that has been really, really good on our side. I mean, it was bad that it happened but in a way, it was really good because it really strengthened our team quite a lot.”

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Sergio Perez insists he’s not ‘giving up’

As Perez struggled with his form, the 33-year-old Mexican driver was not helped by constant rumours that his days at Red Bull were numbered.

Despite having a contract in place for next season, everyone from Daniel Ricciardo to Lando Norris to Charles Leclerc was said to be in talks with Christian Horner and co about replacing him.

There were also reports ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix that the driver would announce his retirement on the Sunday evening.

There was, however, nothing from Perez who will continue as a Red Bull driver for the 2024 start with the driver adamant he was never going to just walk away from his race seat.

“No, obviously, that would have been the easiest route because it was very tough at times,” said the 33-year-old

“But I’m not the type of guy that at this stage of my career will be giving up and be willing to finish my career like that. It’s not something that I ever considered doing.

“I’m aware of the responsibility I have and I’m not the sort of guy that will blame people around me for the results. At the end of the day I took responsibility for it and I had to turn around the situation quite a lot.”

He added: “To be honest, I was not really thinking of it as a driver. I was more focused on making sure I could enjoy the weekends and be able to have that.

“I was having some weekends that were so difficult that they were not fun. I’m here because I still love what I’m doing and I’m here because I still have a lot of fun, a lot of enjoyment. And that was my main focus, that we really need things to turn them around.

“I had some really difficult times in a few months, let’s put it that way. I went from fighting for the championship to being in a difficult boat, and not having that confidence with the car.

“But the end of the day, if you want to be at Red Bull, I’m aware of how strong mentally you have to be to be here. And it’s something that I got stronger at. You learn so much from the bad days, much more than from the good days.”

Perez finished the season second in the Drivers’ Championship as he wrapped up Red Bull’s first-ever 1-2 result.

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