Max Verstappen penalty could pose problem for Sergio Perez, pundit claims

Oliver Harden
Sergio Perez in conversation with Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen after Belgian Grand Prix qualifying. Spa, July 2023.

Sergio Perez in conversation with Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen after Belgian Grand Prix qualifying. Spa, July 2023.

F1 commentator Peter Windsor believes Sergio Perez will have “a problem” if he fails to win the Belgian Grand Prix following Max Verstappen’s grid penalty.

Verstappen claimed his eighth pole position in Friday’s qualifying session at the Spa circuit, but will start sixth after incurring a five-place penalty for exceeding his gearbox allocation.

That means Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc will lead the field away at the start of Sunday’s grand prix, with Perez set for his first front-row start since the Miami GP on May 7.

Max Verstappen penalty puts pressure on Sergio Perez to win

Perez came under huge pressure following a run of five straight races without a Q3 appearance between Monaco and Silverstone, with the Mexican starting a lowly ninth in Hungary last weekend as he made a long-overdue return to the top 10.

With Verstappen forced to make his way through the pack, former title-winning Williams team manager Windsor believes the path to a third win of the season, and a first since April’s Azerbaijan GP, has been laid out before Perez – with trouble on the horizon if he fails to convert his strong starting position into victory.

Speaking via his YouTube channel, Windsor said: “A big opportunity for Perez finally – after all this time – to get back possibly to winning a grand prix again.

“He’s in a Red Bull RB19, he’s around Spa, he’s on the front row – if Sergio doesn’t win this one then he has a problem, because it shouldn’t be that difficult for him around Spa in a car that good.

“The forecast is to be dry-ish on Sunday – overcast but dry – but of course that could mean anything in the Ardennes forest.”

Verstappen memorably won at Spa from 14th on the grid in 2022, with Perez ultimately finishing 18 seconds behind despite starting second on that occasion.

The reigning World Champion pulled off a similar feat in Miami earlier this season, when a red flag late in Q3 left Verstappen down in ninth with Perez on pole.

Verstappen proceeded to make a fine recovery on race day, overtaking Perez into Turn 1 to win by more than five seconds and take control of the 2023 title race.

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Speaking after qualifying on Friday, Verstappen insisted he is still setting his sights on victory at Spa despite starting down in sixth.

“Last year I had more penalties and we could still win the race, so that’s still the target on Sunday,” Verstappen told Le Mans legend and master of ceremonies Tom Kristensen during the post-session parc ferme interviews.

Verstappen is seeking an eighth consecutive victory this weekend, with the dominant Red Bull team looking to extend their record run to 13 straight wins since the 2022 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

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