‘Most promise seen from Sergio Perez but gut says he can’t beat Max to the title’

Thomas Maher
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez after the race for Red Bull. Saudi Arabia March 2023.

Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez cool down after the race finishes. Saudi Arabia March 2023.

Three-time F1 race winner Johnny Herbert and Billy Monger discussed the chances of Sergio Perez beating Max Verstappen to the 2023 F1 Drivers’ Championship title.

Sergio Perez is currently second in the Drivers’ Championship, trailing team-mate Max Verstappen by 15 points. With Verstappen and Perez mirroring each other’s results at the first two Grands Prix of the season, an off-weekend from Perez in Australia has increased the gap from a solitary point to Verstappen’s now more comfortable position.

The Mexican driver has been very open about pursuing a full-on title tilt this season, seemingly no longer fully accepting of the support role he served for Red Bull over the past two seasons. Perez has acknowledged that he needs to perform at the level he did in Saudi Arabia weekend-in, weekend-out, admitting that Verstappen is a monumental challenge to overcome for a World Championship.

With Perez now one of F1’s elder statesmen and secure in the knowledge he has a contract with Red Bull for 2024, his new, more aggressive attitude has raised the question of whether or not the Mexican driver will be able to keep up the form and consistency required to match or eclipse the known quantity in the other RB19 as Red Bull enjoy dominance of the sport.

Billy Monger: My gut says Sergio Perez can’t beat Max Verstappen

TV broadcaster and pundit Billy Monger evaluated Perez’s chances in 2023, saying that the Red Bull driver is showing plenty of promise but the question mark of consistency still has him siding with Verstappen.

“I think it’s fair to say that Checo [Perez] is in the latter stages of his Formula 1 career to a certain extent – he’s not the new kid on the block anymore. He’s one of the more experienced drivers in Formula 1,” Monger told GIVEMESPORT.

“So maybe with a car as good as the Red Bull is, he sees this year or the next couple of years as his window to achieve a childhood dream of being F1 World Champion.

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“Do I personally think that, across the season, he can beat Max Verstappen? My gut probably says no, because we’ve only seen glimpses of speed from Sergio. We’ve seen the odd race where he gets it all together but with Max, it just seems like every weekend he just wins.

“In Saudi, Max came through from 15th to second and, if he’d beaten Sergio then you would have definitely gone, ‘okay Max is going to win the championship,’ but Sergio had good race pace. And he actually kept the gap to Max at about five seconds so that was the most promise I’ve seen from him but whether he can replicate that week in, week out, my gut says probably no. I think Max has got the edge but who knows?”

Johnny Herbert: You’ve got to be able to do it every single weekend

Monger’s podcast sparring partner Johnny Herbert said Perez’s consistency was evident when he raced with a midfield team – the question mark is whether he can achieve the higher level needed for a World Championship bid.

“It’s the best we’ve seen of him so far in his career,” Herbert commented.

“If I go back to his Racing Point time, he was always consistent in a car that was less competitive than what he’s in at the moment.

“But it’s like Billy says, you’ve got to do it every single race, you’ve got to shine even at your least favourite circuit as well. That’s what Max has done. That’s what [Ayrton] Senna did, that’s what Lewis [Hamilton] does, and what all the greats of the sport do.

“They can do it every session and at every single circuit they go to and get the best out of the car. And even when it is a bad day, it’s second place that they earn. And that’s where they’re able to get those championships under their belt.”