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Sergio Perez

Why it’s too early to draw conclusions over Perez's Red Bull turnaround

After a challenging campaign last year left his Formula 1 future under question, Sergio Perez has enjoyed a strong start to the 2024 season with Red Bull

Perez
Analysis
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

Heading into the 2024 Formula 1 season, Sergio Perez was under mounting pressure to perform to a higher standard or risk being replaced at Red Bull for next year’s campaign.

During the opening four rounds, the Mexican has lived up to the expectations placed on his shoulders, scoring a trio of second-place finishes to aid Red Bull’s strong start to the year.

Perez’s disastrous performances throughout the 2023 campaign at times made it seem as though it was a foregone conclusion that he would be out of his seat at the end of the current season.

However, his renewed spark of satisfactory performances may cause Red Bull to slow down its hunt for an alternative option.

But Red Bull will know it is too early to assess the Mexican and ultimately determine that he has turned his fortunes around.

Qualifying gains

One of Perez’s major weaknesses during the 2023 season was his qualifying performances. Amid Red Bull’s highly dominant year with Verstappen, Perez failed to progress into the top 10 Q3 shootout on nine occasions - three times he dropped out on Q1, and six times he didn’t advance beyond Q2.

The early outings of the 2024 season have been consistent for Perez, and if anything, trending in the right direction.

Last time out at the Japanese Grand Prix, the 34-year-old pushed Verstappen hard in the fight for pole position, showcasing a competitive side that has been missing for some time.

Just half a tenth separated the duo at the line, a strong improvement from Perez’s displays in the opening three rounds. It was perhaps even more impressive when considering the challenging nature of the Suzuka Circuit and the commitment it requires for a fast lap time.

Qualifying: Perez vs Verstappen in 2024

Race Verstappen Perez Gap
Bahrain P1 P5 +0.358
Saudi Arabia P1 P3 +0.335
Australia P1 P3 +0.359
Japan P1 P2 +0.066

But even the opening three rounds themselves, before his leap forward in Japan, signalled a major boost for Perez who on many occasions last year was struggling to even make it into the top 10, never mind hoping to qualify his car inside the top five.

Perez's races have also been honourable - in Australia, his lacklustre pace was put down to a visor tear-off becoming lodged in the floor of the car and team boss Christian Horner maintained that overall, Ferrari had the upper hand on Red Bull in Melbourne.

However, at the other three events, Perez has enjoyed a largely untroubled run to second place and fulfilling Red Bull’s hope of not troubling Verstappen but sitting pretty to pick up the pieces if a problem arises for the Dutchman.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Avoiding 2023 woes

Perez’s issues during the 2023 season stemmed from consistently being in a position of chasing the car’s potential and always being several steps behind team-mate Verstappen.

As the car was upgraded throughout season, Perez’s struggles were magnified and became more challenging to deal with.

With a fresh slate for the new season and a heavily revised RB20 underneath him, Perez has provided a strong answer to his critics - but closing the book on Perez’s struggling chapter would be premature.

With Red Bull deploying such a fresh approach with its 2024 car, there are likely areas that have a lot of untapped potential - and like last year’s challenger, therein lies the danger for Perez.

His initial answer in Japan was seismic as the first batch of upgrades to the RB20 did nothing to deter his pace - if anything, they improved it.

Now, the task for Perez is to repeat the process and keep on top of the car changes that come with continued development, or he risks facing a similar downward spiral to 2023.

His initial answer in Japan was seismic as the first batch of upgrades to the RB20 did nothing to deter his pace - if anything, they improved it

Strongest start

Helmut Marko recently commented that Perez is enjoying his strongest season so far with Red Bull. While it’s not the case in straight point-scoring metrics, it may well be true when considering the overall picture.

Perez's championship picture after first four races

Year Championship position Points
2021 P6 32
2022 P3 54
2023 P2 87
2024 P2 64

Perez has done very little wrong at the commencement of the current season. Even during his strong start in 2023, he endured a miserable weekend in Australia which consisted of multiple offs during practice before a Q1 elimination during qualifying.

There has been no air of desperation, but rather a measured and controlled approach to every event so far.

There is a right to be reserved over Perez’s potential this year due to the string of lacklustre outings that were on display in 2023 and a clear answer to his improvements will only come in time.

However, if such performances become ever more consistent then it will be no surprise to see Perez penning another deal with the reigning world champions.

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