Sergio Perez’s championship credentials have been called into question by some respected pundits after a poor Spanish GP.
Perez lost further ground to Max Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship as the Dutch driver utterly dominated the Spanish Grand Prix weekend as he topped every timed session before leading every lap en route to the win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Perez, in stark contrast, failed to bounce back strongly from his disastrous Monaco GP weekend last time out as a mistake in qualifying resulted in an 11th-place grid slot. On race day, Perez made good progress to finish fourth but was beaten to third place by Mercedes’ George Russell – the British driver having started from just behind him on the grid from 12th.
While team boss Christian Horner did his best to boost his driver’s confidence by praising the recovery drive, pundits are questioning whether the Mexican driver has been psychologically broken by Max Verstappen’s relentless form and speed in the same car.
Appearing on the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast, broadcaster and former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley said the rapid turnaround of his championship challenge has impacted Perez’s form.
“In qualifying, he made some mistakes. he messed up and that really set him up for the race where he started further back than he would have wanted to,” he said.
“Then it’s a struggle in the middle of the pack – he tried to do some different things on strategy and we know how quick the car is because we saw it in the hands of Verstappen.
“With Perez, I don’t know if he’s lost confidence over recent weeks – there was talk of a championship fight just literally two races ago.
“Now people are even questioning his right to be in that car. Can he even make it to the end of the season? So I think there’s a solid psychological impact with what’s going on with Sergio Perez, on his side of the garage.
“It was a good recovery in one sense in that he made it to fourth, but he’s in a car that, anything off the podium, it’s got to be disappointing.”
Andrew Benson: Sergio Perez reached for something that wasn’t there
BBC journalist Andrew Benson agreed with Priestley’s assessment, revealing Mercedes had always thought Perez was beatable to the podium based on his early weekend pace.
“The other teams, what they saw from Perez this weekend was that he was never anywhere close to Verstappen’s pace,” he said.
“Mercedes, I know, went into the race thinking that they could have a decent chance of beating him. If he suddenly found some more pace, then he was going to be racing Hamilton for second.
“If he was at the normal pace that he was at, he would be racing Russell for third. And that’s exactly what happened, and Russell beat him. He was closing but nowhere near quick enough to pass him.
“So Perez looks a bit broken to me at the moment. He was asked after the race about his confidence and he said he’s had a strong season where he hasn’t really, you know?”
Benson continued to say that Perez’s early-season form had him believing in a position that was never realistic, given the reality of just how strong drivers like Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are.
“I think what’s been going on is Perez was reaching for something that was never real,” he said.
“He was going into the season, had a couple of strong races on circuits he’s good on and he’s thought ‘I can beat Max to the championship. I’ve got to be absolutely on my game and I’ve got to be at my absolute maximum level every lap like Verstappen is, like Hamilton is’.
“And he can’t do it, because he’s not a world-class, A-star list driver like Verstappen and Hamilton.”