Sergio Perez told to accept he’s a ‘Rubens, he’s not a Michael Schumacher’

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez stares awkwardly at Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen after their titanic battle in the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race. Styria, July 2023.

Sergio Perez stares awkwardly at Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen after their titanic battle in the Austrian Grand Prix sprint race. Styria, July 2023.

Likening today’s situation at Red Bull to Ferrari’s successful partnership of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, David Croft says Sergio Perez has to accept he’s the “Rubens” in the line-up.

After a brief foray at the start of the season up into the role of a title contender, Perez’s hopes imploded when from Monaco to Silverstone he failed to make it into Q3 five times in a row and only once recovered to the podium.

All the while his teammate Max Verstappen was banging in race win after race win, which meant even when Perez finally got it right in Hungary and Spa, back inside the pole position shoot-out and recording back-to-back podium finishes, his championship dreams were in a tatters.

‘Sergio Perez has to accept he’s playing second fiddle to Max

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko put Perez’s return to form down to the driver letting go of that dream, thus dropping the pressure that came with it.

“He has now woken up from his World Championship dream. Maybe that will help him to focus again on delivering the best possible performance,” said the 80-year-old.

Sky Sports pundit Croft agrees, saying the best Perez is the one that is “happy” to be number two to Verstappen.

“I tend to, and rarely I ever say this, I tend to agree with with Helmut Marko on this one, whereby Sergio’s trouble started when he thought he could be a World Champion,” he said.

“He thought he could win the World Championship and in Miami, he was six points off Max and starting on pole, and I think that broke him a little bit. Then the very next time in Monaco where he crashed in Q1 absolutely broke Checo.

“I think if he returns after the summer break, I’m no psychologist, but I think if he returns after the summer break happy to accept that he’s playing second fiddle to Max, happy to accept that second is what Red Bull need him to do, happy to accept that’s a good place to be and better than 18 other drivers on the grid, Checo will be absolutely fine.” recommends

F1 points all-time rankings: Where do Hamilton, Verstappen and Alonso feature?

F1 race wins: Which drivers have the highest win totals in F1 history?

‘He just got to realise he is a Rubens, not a Michael Schumacher

His fellow pundit, former F1 driver Karun Chandhok, believes Perez has a choice to make similar to the one that Schumacher’s team-mates had to make during his title-winning days with Ferrari.

They could either be frustrated, as Barrichello was or accept it and enjoy being a Ferrari driver who wins the occasional race as Irive did.

“It’s like the situation they had at Ferrari with Michael and Eddie and Rubens. Rubens arrived at Ferrari in 2000 expecting to be alongside Michael and be an equal and compete against Michael, and quickly realised that wasn’t going to be the case and basically spent five years being really frustrated,” said Chandhok.

“Whereas Irvine went there and knew he wasn’t going to do that and thought, ‘you know, if I get within three tends to this bloke, that’d be great. And I’m going to be a Ferrari driver and life was good’. “And he was happy then, I think made a lot of money, and lived a happier life in that period.

“So I think at some point, and I agree with Crofty, in Checo’s situation he’s got to accept, he’s against one of the greatest, naturally talented drivers ever to sit in a Formula One car.”

Croft added: “He has got to finish second to his teammate if his teammate has won the race, or on occasion take his chance and beat him and we know he can.

“But he just got to realise he is a Rubens. He isn’t Eddie Irvine. He’s not a Michael Schumacher.”

The Briton reckons unless Perez can do that, accept P2 and do it well, even his sponsorship and selling tins of Red Bull won’t save his seat.

“Checo helps sell a lot of cans of Red Bull,” he added. “He brings a lot of sponsorship money to the team, which is important even in these cost cap times. But that is not going to save him if his results don’t come up to where Red Bull want.

“Something like 65% of all online Red Bull F1 merchandise is sold to Mexico, which shows the commercial value of Checo, but that’s not going to save him.”

Perez needs to work harder if he wants to challenge Verstappen

But, and it’s a big one, Croft says if somewhere inside Perez he still “harbours ambitions to be better than Max Verstappen”, he needs to work harder at it.

“Red Bull and Max have come together beautifully,” he said. “And Max behind the scenes is putting so much effort into his driving at the moment. It is no surprise he’s driving so well.

“What’s it they say that the more the harder I try, the luckier I get. Max is at home sim racing, practising in the home sim, spending five or six days a week in the sim, his sim or the Red Bull sim, honing his craft, and honing his skills. What does he do on his weekend off? He goes and races, 24 hour sim races.

“He loves driving. And the more he drives, the better he gets, because he’s practising all the time. And maybe he’s raising the bar to a level that other drivers kind of need to follow at the moment.

“So if Checo wants to beat him got to put in the effort. I don’t think he’s putting that level of effort into trying to beat Max Verstappen, that’s not me having a go at Checo. I’m just actually saying, you’ve got to raise your game and you got to put the effort in or you get nothing back.”

12 races into this season, Perez trails Verstappen by 125 points in the Drivers’ standings.

Read next: Christian Horner’s Red Bull reveal spells trouble for Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo