Sergio Perez believes this year’s RB19 is more suited to his driving style, having bemoaned last year’s upgrades favoured his team-mate Max Verstappen.
Perez recorded his best start ever to a Formula 1 championship last season, securing four podiums in the first seven races, including the win at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Sitting just 15 points behind Verstappen after the Monte Carlo race, the Mexican driver believed he was in the running for the World title only to fall further and further behind his team-mate as Red Bull upgraded the RB18.
The driver claimed more than once that the updates favoured Verstappen, saying: “I think the way we developed the car was more in Max’s direction.”
Red Bull denied this, motorsport advisor Helmut Marko telling Auto Motor und Sport “that’s nonsense” before adding that the only reason Red Bull upgraded the car was to lower its weight because “not much was missing with the aero.”
Perez finished the season third in the Drivers’ Championship, 149 points behind championship winner Verstappen.
This season the 33-year-old is looking forward to improving on his results, confident the RB19 is better suited to his driving style.
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Asked at the team’s launch if he could avoid last year’s mid-season slump, he replied: “Yes, certainly. There are things that we are going to work on.
“We believe that the car is already going to be better. I’ve been pushing the team in a certain direction, and we believe we’re heading in that direction.
“But we’ll see. Once we get the car, it’s all about adapting ourselves to the car and try to maximise it.”
Perez concedes his side of the garage made mistakes last season, most notably with the set-up of the car which cost him performance.
He believes those lessons learned will stand him in good stead for 2023.
“Learning from the mistakes we did, I think sometimes we took the wrong direction with the set-up and that’s very important for us to understand,” he said.
“I think we figured out towards the end of the season what we were doing with the car, so that’s been crucial for us.
“And I think we are heading in the right direction with it.”
But can Perez fight Verstappen for the World title?
History says no. The numbers say no. So too do Red Bull.
In 2021 Perez bagged one race win to Verstappen’s 10, last year it was two to his team-mate’s 15. This year the numbers will, with all probability, again favour the Dutchman.
It’s simply because he is the faster driver of the two.
As team boss Christian Horner put it, the team needs Perez to “strive” to beat his team-mate but at the end of the day accept that he has one job to do and that’s help win the Constructors’ title.
The Briton told Auto Motor und Sport that Verstappen is the “man to beat, he’s the reigning World Champion, and Checo has to strive for that, otherwise why is he competing?
“But I think the reality is, all the probability is, that Max over the season is likely to be the more likely candidate for the World Championship.
“But Checo also he has the capability to be right there and we need both drivers performing at the best of their ability for the Constructors’ Championship.”
So accept, but still hope is the message…