Le Mans winner Richard Bradley believes Sergio Perez is in his “second big spiral” of the year after a troubled Japanese Grand Prix weekend.
Perez suffered contact on the first lap after being squeezed between Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton, which left him requiring a wing change before taking a penalty for overtaking Fernando Alonso under Safety Car conditions.
A late lunge on Kevin Magnussen at the hairpin resulted in more contact, more damage and another front wing change – before a retirement, un-retirement as he served another penalty, and then retirement again to cap off a tough weekend.
Richard Bradley: Sergio Perez seems ‘completely devoid of confidence again’
With Max Verstappen now on the verge of winning the Drivers’ title in Qatar after easing to victory at Suzuka, Perez holds on to second place in the standings, but is being challenged from behind by Lewis Hamilton.
But while both AlphaTauri seats have been confirmed and Perez has his seat secure for 2024, Bradley believes the Mexican needs to step up if he is to continue to be the two-time World Champion’s rear gunner.
“Max Verstappen is back with his domination, let’s get that clear,” Bradley told the newest episode of the On Track GP Podcast when the subject of Red Bull’s superiority was on the agenda.
“I mean, Perez looks like he’s entering that downward spiral that he was in earlier in the season, except now it’s coming in the form of collisions.
“When you look at what Max was able to do, it looks like he’s just become completely devoid of confidence again and, okay, the question goes if Perez finishes second in the Drivers’ Championship, that’s exactly what you want your two drivers to do. But how long can he stay there when he’s clearly underperforming in such a way?
“Don’t get me wrong, we all understand that Max is generational. There’s no question about that. But it’s too far behind now.
“Whenever you have these world class drivers in the absolute form, you need a solid rear gunner who can take over when you need it.
“With [Michael] Schumacher you had Eddie Irvine. When Schumacher broke his leg, Eddie Irvine was able to take [Mika] Hakkinen to the last round. With Hakkinen you always had [David] Coulthard, with [Lewis] Hamilton, you always had [Valtteri] Bottas – don’t forget that 100% Q3 record he had with Mercedes – you always need a rear gunner just in case something happens.
“And let’s pretend that Red Bull or Honda had technical woes, and they retire a lot of times with Max’s car or whatever happens. Perez is not going to consistently be that guy who can rack up those points.
“And you have to start asking questions when Max is so far ahead, you need a solid rear gunner. Those drivers who I just mentioned would always be in the top four every single time pretty much. Okay, there would be a bad day, but invariably, they’d always be there.
“At the minute, Perez has every man and his dog wanting that seat in any category in motorsport. I can tell you all the sports car drivers want it, all the IndyCar drivers want it, and he’s just not doing it at the minute.
“This is the second big spiral that he’s had this year. So again, hopefully he’ll improve by the end of the season, but with [Daniel] Ricciardo now being confirmed at AlphaTauri it pretty much means that Perez will be at Red Bull next year – but it’s not good enough.”
On Track GP is a YouTube channel launched in conjunction between PlanetF1.com and DR Sports, and you can watch the full post-Japanese Grand Prix episode below.