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Sergio Perez

Perez's downward spiral is reminiscent of Bottas's 2018 campaign

Sergio Perez is clearly struggling at Red Bull - with his dive in form mirroring Valtteri Bottas's 2018 campaign at Mercedes.

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It felt a pivotal moment when it happened as the defining point of the 2023 Formula 1 season came on Lap 48 at Turn 1 of the Miami Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen made a fairly routine pass of Sergio Perez for the lead as he recovered from ninth to record a third win of the season while pole-sitter Perez took a battering as he finished second.

There is no easy way to cut this, Perez should have won in Miami. In the fastest car, on pole position, he should have cleared off into the distance while Verstappen navigated the traffic following his aborted lap in Q3 and subsequent Charles Leclerc red flag bringing an early end to the session.

The fact that Perez didn't win was a massive failure, and since then as Verstappen has gone about ripping up the record books, the Mexican has fallen off a cliff and is even in danger of losing second in the Drivers' to Lewis Hamilton, holding a 30 point advantage with five rounds remaining.

Perez's mid-season trudge around Europe was hard to watch at times, with his rationale for the slump being that upgrades introduced in Spain took the car out of a narrow window in which he could operate it.

Be that as it may, but the bare fact is that while trying to cope with being pulverised by the all-time great across the garage, he's also been trying to square the fact that his best efforts are simply not enough to reach the goal he's worked at for so long and become World Champion.

For any driver on the grid - knowing that your lifetime ambition is just not going to happen after over 20 years of trying because there is someone who is just better than you is the toughest pill - as Valtteri Bottas found out in 2018.

Shades of Bottas in Perez spiral

This was exactly the scenario Bottas was facing at the end of 2018 - his second campaign with Mercedes.

2017 had been an excellent first year in the big time for the Finn with three Grand Prix wins, 10 further podiums and four pole positions as he banked third place in the standings, just 12 points behind Sebastian Vettel and 58 behind champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

That was a perfect building block for an assault on the championship in 2018, but things got off to a bad start in Australia when he crashed in Q3 and could only manage eighth in the race.

Victory was robbed in Azerbaijan thanks to a late puncture, with car failure also putting him out in Austria from pole position.

The Finn was then denied the chance to attack Hamilton in Germany and ordered to let him through in Russia to protect against Vettel behind. Perhaps though the real dent was in Hungary when Toto Wolff called Bottas Hamilton's 'wingman" - something that he did not find amusing.

Combined with off-track problems, it all culminated in a driver whose dreams of title success had been hit hard by reality as he cut a forlorn figure at the end of the season, which finished with four straight fifth places, who wanted and felt like he needed to be anywhere in the world rather than sitting in a Formula 1 car.

Over that winter, Bottas completely hit the rest button, let bygones be bygones and came back renewed for 2019, having spent time in the Arctic Lapland rally essentially getting back to basics and rediscovering his love of pure driving.

He came back and thoroughly put one over on Hamilton in Australia to start the year, winning by 20.8s, although the #44 was carrying floor damage from an early kerb strike.

Bottas 2.0 as he was known was keep pace with Hamilton's blistering start to the season, but a poor weekend in Canada with just fourth as Hamilton inherited the win felt like a big moment with the first non-podium result of the year for the #77.

The wet German GP was a prime opportunity to carve chunks out of Hamilton's points lead following his off into the wall and near-minute pit-stop, but Bottas too crashed out in an all-too easy to do spin at Turn 1.

The fact that Hamilton also did the same later in the race and survived goes to show that the greats have a knack of earning that little bit of luck that their faithful understudies do not.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Perez 2.0?

In the end, Bottas 2.0 re-discovered his love for the art of driving, the art of racing, but came to peace with the terms that he would never be World Drivers' Champion as there was just someone better than he was.

Perez needs a similar mindset shift heading into 2024. He needs to reconnect with driving, completely reset and refocus his mind but do so in the knowledge that like Bottas and Rubens Barrichello before him who might be able to defeat their great team-mate a handful of times a year, it will never be enough to wrestle the title away and that the dream will remain just that.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages


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