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Where did Perez go wrong in Canada?

In a race where Max Verstappen comfortably led the field by near 10 seconds at the line, Sergio Perez once again struggled to finish in the top five. Is it the curse of the second Red Bull car?

Max Verstappen has not looked back since he overtook Sergio Perez on Lap 48 of the Miami Grand Prix in May. He has led every single lap of a race with a comfortable margin while everyone else - including his teammate - sort the remaining positions out among themselves. It's telling that in the last three races Perez has been absent on the podium. As a result he is now trailing Verstappen by 69 points in the Drivers' Championship, and rivals smell blood. When asked if he thought second in the championship was a possibility with the gap now just nine points between him and Perez, Fernando Alonso responded with a simple: "Yes." So what went wrong with him in Canada for him to now be in a position where he has to fend off Alonso and Lewis Hamilton?

How Canada became another inconsistent weekend

While Verstappen succeeded on every tyre during the tricky conditions in qualifying, Perez produced a below average performance. He essentially reacted too slowly to what was happening and did not anticipate the crossover conditions in time for him to set a lap to put him into the top ten shootout. It was the third time in a row that he missed out on Q3, a session which he branded a "mess" afterwards. The performance stems from his inability to get the the tyres up to an optimum working temperature in the cold and slippery conditions. Whereas Verstappen made use of their garage position at the front to 'jump the queue' in the pits and get an extra lap in (which somewhat inflated his times), Perez was out struggling in the wet/drying/raining conditions. Even though Perez stuck to his initial run plan agreed with the team, the importance of overruling their plan in this scenario cannot be understated - as was shown at Ferrari.

Monaco has shown how tough it is to get your strategy right, but Alex Albon provided a sound benchmark for all teams to understand whether they needed to make the switch to slicks at the start of Q2. By the time Perez made the switch to slicks the rain hit the track - half a lap too late. In the race it was a similar story, opting for the Hard tyre at the start in anticipation of having to negotiate traffic. The Hard's turned out to be difficult to get into the operating window due to the 'green' track conditions brought on by the rain. On a full tank of fuel and several cars ahead of him, Perez had no chance of progress. The Safety Car provided some respite as he could put the midfield battle behind him and focus on Ferrari, but their superior pace midway through the race on the Medium's enabled them to stretch the gap. A solitary point for fastest lap after he pitted for a set of Soft tyre with one lap to go was the only takeaway for Perez in Canada, likely an attempt at damage limitation.

Perez living with his mistakes

The last three race weekends have seen Perez's chances unravel in qualifying sessions. This is an area that Verstappen has historically not excelled in, opting to focus his car setup more on the race because thats where the points are earned. Perez has previously outlined that it is "season consistency" that he needs to beat Verstappen to the title and to take things "race-by-race." But so far he's been focused too much on the title challenge to achieve a level of consistent results during a long championship. We first saw signs of it during the Australian Grand Prix when a known fault with the brake bias settings on the RB19 affected his weekend. But the others have been unforced errors, the kind you see when a tennis player breaks down their opponent to reach three sets to love. A careless crash in qualifying at Monaco not only put Perez in the unwanted area of the grid, but the recovery operation gave trackside snappers a peek at their secret weapon . Rival teams are still talking about it today nearly a month on, with Adrian Newey remarking that it was "unfortunate" when asked about the pictures. Recent updates from Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin showing they are chipping away at their dominant gap, as Verstappen himself admitted after Canada. Red Bull's aero test restrictions are set to kick in at the end of this month on top of their cost cap penalty, which will make responding to these even harder. Verstappen has done the heavy lifting so far this season and put himself in a position to cruise to the championship should any aero restrictions affect Red Bull's rate of development. Perez has now got the tough job of defending his second place from a consistent Alonso and Hamilton, while also attempting to close the huge gap to form any credible title challenge.

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