Nico Rosberg: Sergio Perez’s problems start before a single lap is completed

Michelle Foster
Red Bull driver Sergio Perez grimaces as he prepares for the start of the Miami Grand Prix. Miami, May 2023.

Red Bull driver Sergio Perez grimaces as he prepares for the start of the Miami Grand Prix. Miami, May 2023.

Knocked out of the championship race by his qualifying form, Nico Rosberg believes Saturdays aren’t Sergio Perez’s biggest problem these days, it’s Thursdays when the Red Bull driver is bombarded with questions about his form – and his future.

Off to a flying start in this year’s championship with two wins in the opening four races, Perez lined up on pole position at the Miami Grand Prix a mere six points adrift of his championship-winning team-mate Max Verstappen.

But losing to the Dutchman that Sunday, Verstappen fighting back from ninth on the grid to overtake Perez on the track to win the race, Perez lost his way.

Nico Rosberg highlights the ‘hard’ part of Sergio Perez’s race weekend

Failing to make it into Q3 in the following five races, and only once recovering to feature on the podium, he walked away from the British Grand Prix weekend trailing his team-mate by 99 points.

But perhaps even harder to deal with, he left Silverstone with his career said to be hanging on the balance with Red Bull putting reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo in the AT04 with the Aussie making it clear he wants to use that to audition for Perez’s race seat.

Despite a barrage of questions about that in the build-up to the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, Perez broke his qualifying hoodoo to line up P9 on the grid and raced his way onto the podium.

But with Verstappen taking the win, his seventh on the trot, the deficit was up to 110 points and the whispers of his pending demise continued. That, Rosberg says, is the biggest challenge now facing the 33-year-old.

“First of all,” Rosberg told the latest Sky Sports podcast, “I would recommend to Sergio to really switch off all the media and everything. Not look at social media, because he’s going to be seeing so many memes going against him, comments going against him, journalists giving questions that are going against him.

“You really need to separate yourself from that. I switched off my entire social media, email, completely for the last six years when I was fighting for the championship.

“The only problem is that he still has to go to the race track. And on a Thursday he has to sit in front of 50 journalists and they’re going to ask him, ‘hey Sergio, you’re looking like you’re having the biggest struggle in your career. Do you think you’re ever going to get out of this?’

“Again this is the journalists asking, and that it always hits you. It always hits you because you have to listen. You can’t ignore, you have to answer the questions. The next question is going to be a ‘Sergio, do you feel a threat from Daniel Ricardo, do you feel that you might lose your seat?’

“You know, that’s the next question from the journalists, and it just goes on and on like that. And it’s so hard because it just keeps on hitting you. That’s like one of the hardest parts of the weekend for Sergio at the moment to deal with.”

Nico Rosberg tells Sergio Perez to forget about the championship

Failing to win a race since Azerbaijan, the fourth round of the season, Perez is all but out of the title race as he trails Verstappen by 110 points meaning even if he wins every one of the final 10 races, and the sprints, Verstappen only needs to be P2 to secure his third successive World title.

But on a seven-race winning streak, Verstappen has made it clear P2 on a Sunday is not what he’s willing to accept.

Rosberg continued: “It’s about switching off, focusing also on his state of mind. He was very focused on ‘hey, I want to beat Max I want to beat Max, I want to be champion you know’. He’s always saying ‘I want to be champion’.

“But just forget about that and just race weekend by race weekend. Come to the race and session by session do a fantastic job preparing for it as best you can, and rebuild like that. That’s what it’s about. That’s what he needs to try to.”

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‘Very difficult to explain Sergio Perez’s nosedive’

As for why the Mexican driver’s season has fallen apart in such spectacular fashion, Rosberg calling it a “nosedive”, the German says it’s “impossible” to pinpoint the exact reason but that sometimes drivers go through “poor” patches.

“It is very difficult to explain our his season has nosedived in the way that it has because he had some really strong showings earlier in the year,” said the 2016 World Champion.

“It’s impossible really to say but we’ve seen that so often with sports, especially with Formula One drivers, that they just get this hit this patch of like really poor form. Imagine five races in a row not in Q3 with a Red Bull Car and then ninth on the grid now in Hungary, like wow that’s quite a struggle.

“But a day like Sunday is really going to help him a lot and he confirmed that in the post-race interviews. He was like ‘yeah, this is really the perfect race to rebuild my confidence’.”

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