Sergio Perez told to become Nico Rosberg and ‘get under Max Verstappen’s skin’

Oliver Harden
Helmut Marko hugs Sergio Perez. Azerbaijan April 2023

Red Bull's Helmut Marko hugs Sergio Perez as Max Verstappen watches. Azerbaijan April 2023

Former Formula 1 driver Anthony Davidson has urged Sergio Perez to emulate Nico Rosberg’s 2016 approach if he is to stand a chance of beating Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen to the 2023 title.

Perez sits just six points behind Verstappen in the Drivers’ standings after claiming his second victory of the season at last weekend’s Azerbaijan GP.

Having taken the win in the sprint race in Baku, Perez inherited the lead after Verstappen pitted during a Safety Car period and went on to defeat the two-time World Champion in a head-to-head fight.

With Red Bull in a dominant position having won all four races in 2023 so far, this season is being regarded as Perez’s best chance to win the title to date.

Perez’s promising start to the season has led to comparisons with Nico Rosberg, who outscored Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to be crowned World Champion in a tense 2016 campaign.

Rosberg went on to announce his retirement just five days after winning the title and later claiming to have been exhausted, having made a number of sacrifices in his personal life in order to beat Hamilton.

Sensing a change in the Mexican’s body language in 2023, Davidson believes Perez should take inspiration from Rosberg’s more ruthless mindset if he to take the fight to a driver of Verstappen’s class.

He told the Sky Sports F1 podcast: “I felt like we’re seeing a little bit of a difference in Sergio this year.

“To start with, he’s a bit more steely, a bit more determined.

“I honestly I think this is what he needs to do. I think he realises that he’s come to this crossroads now.

“This season already, it’s hit him pretty hard in that he’s got the car to do it.

“This new car from Red Bull this season seems to suit his style better.

“He’s getting more [embedded] with the team and with how the car feels.

“It takes some time and it only takes a few little tweaks here and there, from season to season, for a driver to really find their niche, the sweet spot in how they can get the most out of the car to extrapolate all that performance and I think he knows he’s there. recommends

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“Sure, there are circuits that Max is going to come to later this year – y0ur Zandvoorts, your, Interlagoses, the Silverstones, the Suzukas – where Max is going to shine.

“We all know it. He knows it as well. So what do you do?

“You’ve got to be more Rosberg, 2016. That’s what you’ve got to do.

“I was always told – and probably rightly so as well from team bosses in my F1 time – I was too nice. And I think they’re right.

“I think it’s what made me a much better sportscar driver. I was more of a team player, always was.

“And I think now it’s time for Sergio to stop being Mr Nice Guy.

“He’s got to take a leaf out of Rosberg, 2016, and maybe – as much as it might hurt to be the guy that he doesn’t want really to be – he’s got to make sacrifices and decisions this season that might go the way that his family doesn’t want him to go.

“He might have to take himself away [like] Rosberg did.

“He might have to say things to the team they don’t want him to say or he necessarily feels comfortable in saying.

“He’s got to get under Max Verstappen’s skin. He’s got to annoy him.

“This is his moment. This might only be his one chance. I think he knows that, we all know it as well.

“He’s so close – six points behind after four races – and he’s looking good.

“I don’t think he’ll be able to do it if he plays Mr Nice Guy this year.”

Davidson expanded on his view during an appearance on Sky Sports News, dismissing suggestions that Red Bull’s control over the 2023 Championship puts F1 at risk of a boring season.

“It’s always exciting when you see team-mates fighting each other,” he added.

“We had that moment, don’t forget, in 2016 between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, and it was actually Rosberg that won that Championship.

“Perez seems to be in the form of his life and he’s absolutely relishing this chance to take the fight to Max Verstappen.

“Verstappen is, as we know, a world-class competitor, double World Champion – but Perez has the team, the car to do it this year.

“It feels like to me that he’s really got the bit between the teeth and also we’re seeing a bit of a difference in Sergio Perez this year.

“He looks more hungry than ever and I really feel like he knows, as we do, that this is his moment.”