On the back of Sergio Perez revealing he sought help from a mental coach earlier this year, Jeroen Bleekemolen says it’s the “mental part” of the game that’s tripping up the driver.
Five months ago Perez was dreaming of winning a maiden Formula 1 World title with the Mexican driver just six points behind Max Verstappen in the standings.
And then his season fell apart, starting with a confidence-knocking loss to his team-mate at the Miami Grand Prix, which was followed by a string of five qualifying failures.
Red Bull driver Sergio Perez again under fire
His “confidence dropped” at the time and Perez sought help, telling Dutch publication De Limburger: “In the beginning, I was competing for the World title but, from May onwards, that changed. I was driving without confidence.”
But while his results began to improve around the British Grand Prix, today Perez is once again under fire and facing a barrage of negative headlines.
Causing collisions in the last two races, Singapore and Japan, Perez has 223 points on the board while Verstappen, back on the top step of the podium after Red Bull’s Singapore blip, has hit the 400 mark.
Dutch racing driver Bleekemolen believes that has to weigh heavily on Perez’s mind.
“I thought the collision with Magnussen… When you see things like that, yes, you still see that happen in Formula 4 or Formula 3, but that does not belong in Formula 1,” he told Motorsport.com after the Suzuka race.
“I think the mental part is going to be the biggest part now. You just go crazy, you don’t understand: ‘How is it possible that he (Max) is always faster?’
“You have the data, the set-up, and the same car… but if the gap just gets bigger, you drive yourself crazy. That’s what happens. This weekend was very extreme with all those mistakes added.”
Bleekemolen says Lawson could be a Verstappen
Bleekemolen reckons Perez’s situation today is so dire that unless he pulls himself out of his slump, he could be following former AlphaTauri driver Nyck de Vries out of the Red Bull door.
“Formula 1 is tough,” he said. “If things continue like this, I don’t see him driving the entire season next year. That happens more often at Red Bull. If things don’t go well during a season, they say: ‘We’re going to change now.’
“If it continues like this, I would actually start seeing what you can do next year (as Red Bull). So far they keep saying that he will just be there for the entire season next year, but we have heard that before.”
Pressed as to which of the AlphaTauri hopefuls he’d give the seat to, the 41-year-old put Liam Lawson ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda.
“I would give Lawson the chance,” he insisted. “People immediately say: ‘But then you also destroy him, because he has to work with little experience to sit next to Verstappen.’ But he is a really great talent and I think he will also get the chance to develop further.
“He is new and not the experienced man like Perez already was. He was expected to win matches straight away, something he did. Especially when he came to Red Bull, he came in as a top talent. We must not forget that, but he has really played out.
“Lawson… give him one or two years, or immediately a two-year contract, for example. Then the pressure is also a bit off. I would do that.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Red Bull prompted an inexperienced driver with huge success with Bleekemolen pointing to Verstappen’s rise after just one year and four races with the junior team.
“They also quickly put Max in a Red Bull for the same reason,” he continued. “Someone is not performing? Come on, get out.
“I can actually see that happening next year, maybe even sooner. Maybe they will already have things at the end of this season. But that very much depends on the upcoming races.”