‘Now you see how to motivate me’ – Sergio Perez’s secret bet with Christian Horner revealed

Thomas Maher

Sergio Perez’s performance in Suzuka has seen the Mexican all but match Max Verstappen, in a big turnaround from last year’s disastrous weekend.

Perez will line up in second place on the grid for Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix, having finished just 0.066 seconds down on Verstappen’s pole time as the Dutch driver had to dig deep to see off Perez’s challenge on the final runs in Q2.

Sergio Perez costs Christian Horner ‘a few quid’ in Japan qualifying

Perez’s stellar performance continues what has been a very strong start to the season for the 2023 championship runner-up. Having taken assured second places in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, he finished in fifth in Australia following a grid penalty that demoted him from third before a downforce issue in the race prevented any further recovery.

Japan marked a particularly low point of 2023 in what was a difficult year for Perez. Qualifying fifth, an incident with Lewis Hamilton at the start resulted in damage that necessitated a pit stop for repairs. While trying to recover, Perez hit Kevin Magnussen’s Haas and picked up more damage.

While appearing to retire from the race, Red Bull sent Perez back out on track to serve the five-second time penalty he’d been given for the incident, before retiring from the race again.

Having endured such a horrible weekend at Suzuka just over six months ago, the 2024 event is unfolding very differently so far – particularly useful timing for Perez as he is seeking a contract extension to stay on at Red Bull beyond the conclusion of this season.

Jumping on the team radio at the end of qualifying, Perez could be heard on team radio having a joke with his crew as Christian Horner good-naturedly admonished him for having won a bet that has cost the team boss “a few quid today”.

The bet Perez had made with Horner was over whether or not Red Bull could lock out the front row and, having done so, Perez laughed back at his boss to say: “Now you see how to motivate me”.

Horner replied to wryly say, “Haha, well I’ve always known that!” before Perez’s race engineer Hugh Bird said, “It’s very nice of you to share that with me and Woody”, with Perez signing off by saying, “Absolutely, and all the boys”.

Sergio Perez on Japan 2023: Nothing was working

Perez explained the reasons for the more assured displays from his side of the garage as he spoke to the media after qualifying.

“Like Carlos [Sainz] would say, ‘we stopped inventing’,” Perez laughed, referring to the Ferrari driver’s infamous radio message from the 2022 British Grand Prix.

“We were playing around with the car far too much, and just going through it. Now we have a much better base. We are a lot happier and the weekends just progress.

“I think, when we came here last year, we were at the stage of our season where [nothing] was working and, when you are in that, you just go around in circles and circles.

“We found out in the end, towards the end of the year, that it was better just to step back and don’t try to chase it too much with the setup because then you start compromising other things.

“I think that’s been the case for this year. So yeah, I’m a lot more comfortable, a lot more happier, and the confidence is slowly coming back.”

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Sergio Perez: The whole weekend has been good

With Perez finishing less than a tenth off the pace set by Verstappen as the Dutch driver claimed his 36th career pole position, he revealed his delight at how the qualifying session had played out for him.

“Everything was on the margin, it was so easy to lose a tenth of two by over-pushing a little bit in some of the corners,” he said.

“The amount of energy that we put into the tyres around here is quite high.

“So it was quite difficult just to get the perfect lap nailed. It was close today, but I think the whole weekend has been good. We’ve made some good progress.

“We managed to keep that consistency through the qualifying and now let’s see what we are able to do tomorrow.

“I don’t think we are looking great at the moment in our long-run pace, but we’ve made some changes and, hopefully, that will translate into a better race pace.”

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