Why Sergio Perez’s latest Max Verstappen defeat actually felt ‘like a win’

Thomas Maher
Red Bull's Sergio Perez at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Red Bull's Sergio Perez at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Helmut Marko was thrilled to see Sergio Perez finish in the position expected of him at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Having had a great start to the 2023 season, Perez appeared to have a major crisis of confidence after being beaten to the win in Miami – setting off a sequence of races in which the Mexican failed to deliver upon the potential of the dominant RB19.

At the Belgian Grand Prix, Perez took the lead early on in the race, but was reeled in and overtaken by Max Verstappen as the Dutch driver went on to win by over 20 seconds.

Helmut Marko: Sergio Perez not expected to beat Max Verstappen

Speaking after the race to the F1 Nation podcast, Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko was pleased to see Perez finally return to the positions expected of him in what is the best car on the grid.

“Being second behind Max is like a win,” he said, before explaining that Perez isn’t expected to beat Verstappen over a Grand Prix distance.

“There won’t be any other driver who could stay with him on one level,” Marko continued.

“Maybe Alonso and Hamilton would be nearer, but nobody could beat him at the moment.”

Put to him that Perez may be disappointed by the extent of his defeat, Marko said there shouldn’t be any surprise about that.

“No, I know how good Max is. That has to be considered – he is nursing the tyres and is still going fast,” he said.

“He can read the race and he’s so far ahead. What he’s doing is already past, so it’s unbelievable capacity in his head.”

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Perez himself spoke of his relief at his improved showing on race day, after having a troubled Sprint race in which he was forced to retire after picking up damage following contact between himself and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

“I think just getting that form back,” he said when asked about the positives of his second-place finish.

“We were on the podium last weekend and now, and I think, having these sort of races in clean air, is where you learn a lot and you make those steps in the coming races, because my last few races have been a bit of… yeah, very hard to get a proper read on them, because the way you have to race with dirty air, and so on, so that to me I think is where we’re going to be learning the most on that stint on free air and the second stint as well.”

With the summer break offering the chance for everyone to regroup and reset for the second half of the year, Perez said he’s eager to find big improvements for the remaining 10 races.

“I think for us, it gives us a bit of time to go deep on our analysis,” he said.

“See what we can improve for the next ten races and, yeah, basically keep the momentum going for the end of the season.”

While Perez is welcoming the break, Marko said he’d have preferred to have no let-up in Red Bull’s momentum as they chase the all-time record of winning every race in a single season.

“I’d like to keep it going,” he said.

“But for the people who are really hardworking like the mechanics, they need to recover.”

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