JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 19: Race winner Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing

BARRETTO: Is Sergio Perez a true World Championship contender this year?

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Sergio Perez is only one level behind Purple Bull teammate Max Verstappen within the drivers’ standings, after arguably probably the most spectacular of his 5 Grand Prix victories on the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix final weekend. However is the Mexican, a veteran of the 237 Grand Prix, now a real championship contender?

Perez was as relaxed as I noticed him chatting on sofas in a nook of Purple Bull’s floating trailer final yr. He had completed three runners-up in six races and was simply 25 factors behind Verstappen within the standings. That is the fifteenth after the spectacular win in Monaco. It was a robust begin to the season and the closest he is come to a championship contender.

Nonetheless, after that, the season started to unravel. And in his subsequent win in Singapore, 10 races later, he was 106 away and out of the race. Perez’s shoulders slumped as he struggled increasingly with the RB18, who had drifted away from his driving type with every improve. He discovered some solutions within the final 5 races and completed the yr with three podiums.

This season he made probably the most of a field-class automobile to win in Saudi Arabia and a few mechanical misfortune for teammate Verstappen (the Dutch completed fifteenth after struggling an axle downside in qualifying and dominated each follow till then) Arabia, season He completed second in Bahrain after Verstappen in his opening. He nonetheless has that additional spring in his steps.

READ MORE: Perez fends off Verstappen to win action-packed Saudi Arabian GP as Alonso hits the one hundredth podium

His efficiency in Jeddah on Sunday was heralded as “the very best” by boss Christian Horner. The Mexican did every thing proper. He remained calm when he was defeated in Flip 1 by Fernando Alonso to retake the lead and set up a gentle lead.

When that was worn out by the Security Instrument and put Verstappen in for the win, Perez dealt with it coolly.

2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix: Sergio Perez crosses the road to get his first win of the season

The workforce allow them to race and Verstappen naturally did not waste the chance and began pushing even when instructed by the workforce to carry a goal lap time. He did not meet up with the Mexican, a drivetrain concern hampered his progress considerably, and Perez took the victory.

It was a really full efficiency, one which he all the time appeared like he might do, however by no means fairly did.

READ MORE: Perez particulars ‘intense’ ultimate after beating Verstappen to win in Jeddah

This was Perez’s first time successful a race with Verstappen as runner-up, in order that’s an enormous assertion. When issues went fallacious for the world champion, Perez was there to take the benefit. He’ll want to take action constantly this yr if he desires to have an opportunity to struggle for the world championship.

He may even want to enhance his consistency general. There are a handful of tracks that Perez all the time turns and lands instantly on. It’s critically one. Bahrain and Baku are others. However there are others he is unusually out of tempo with, and at this level he will want to enhance.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 19: Mexican Sergio Perez (11) drives Oracle Red Bull Racing

Perez must switch his road observe prowess to different tracks

His qualifying tempo has been higher up to now this yr – and since his Purple Bull is way quicker than the others, it means he’ll most likely be within the prime three because of this pad, even when he is a couple of tenths away from Verstappen. .

Beforehand, such a deficit would have knocked him down to 3rd place and made life considerably tougher for himself on a Sunday afternoon.

PACKED STRATEGY: Bernie Collins examines the quickest lap pin between Perez and Verstappen in Jeddah

But it surely’s Sundays when Perez all the time comes alive and continues to come back alive. Tire administration is one in all its best strengths. Solely the likes of Verstappen and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton can rival his strategy of constantly quick laps whereas minimizing rear tire slip as a result of his nice really feel.

However Verstappen is a troublesome opponent with a couple of weaknesses, so Perez must do his finest to construct up the stress. He is superb round Albert Park in Melbourne and within the streets of Baku, which hosted the fourth spherical. He wants to achieve some momentum in these two races to provide himself an opportunity.

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 19: Dutch Max Verstappen and Oracle Red take second place

Verstappen will not be content material with ending second – however can Perez beat him on a constant foundation?

We have seen how tough it’s to compete towards a driver of Verstappen’s stage. The Dutch participant despatched out earlier teammates Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon with ease.

He additionally defeated Carlos Sainz and defeated Daniel Ricciardo within the final of their three years collectively. It is a good stronger proposition now.

READ MORE: “I am not right here to complete second” – Verstappen urges Purple Bull to unravel the reliability gremlins plaguing the workforce in Jeddah

This issue will increase when you may have an intra-team rivalry combating for the world championship, as seen in Mercedes. Nico Rosberg retired instantly when he defeated teammate Hamilton for the championship in 2016.

Psychological stress was additionally evident in Valtteri Bottas. The Finnish driver put in a whole lot of effort every winter to enhance his psychological stability, however that solely labored in patches at finest, and Bottas finally left the workforce untitled.

Rosberg and Bottas struggled to challenge teammate Hamilton for the title.

Rosberg and Bottas struggled to problem teammate Hamilton for the title.

Perez confirmed sturdy psychological dedication with the way in which he coped with Drive India’s takeover, struggled to avoid wasting his F1 profession and saved Purple Bull by a late signing, combating relentlessly in midfield for a decade.

However battling for a title is stronger stress, and we’re but to see if he has what it takes to cope with it over the course of a season.

READ MORE: ‘The very best will end first’ – Purple Bull drivers determine on potential intra-team title struggle

Nonetheless, he bought off to a superb begin and could be very assured within the first two races. Purple Bull didn’t observe workforce orders in Saudi Arabia, as an alternative permitting them to race, thus giving Perez the chance to show he can struggle for it.

Verstappen was offended at Purple Bull’s unreliability. Perez ought to benefit from that. And he is aware of he is good on the subsequent two occasions and that is why he has to ship. Try this, and it offers him a shot at a struggle, at the very least on this marketing campaign.

Sergio Perez: King of the streets

Sergio Perez: King of the streets

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