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Formula 1 Miami GP

Perez: Curing key weakness has unleashed F1 title bid

Sergio Perez believes curing one of his main weaknesses at Red Bull has been key to putting him in contention for the Formula 1 championship this year.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, takes the chequered flag

The Mexican’s victory in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has moved him to within six points of world championship leader Max Verstappen and confirmed him as a genuine challenger for the crown.

Reflecting on the Baku performance, and especially on the way he controlled the pace at the front - like in Saudi Arabia - Perez has singled out work he did with his engineers over the winter in addressing tyre management problems as triggering a transformation in his fortunes.

PLUS: How Perez's "in the fight" claim for F1 2023 title glory really stacks up

“I think one of my weaknesses last year was looking after the tyres,” said Perez, when asked by Autosport about the importance of the Baku result.

“During the winter, I sat down with my engineers to go through it, because I was pretty disappointed [with last year] - I didn't have good race pace.

“I think we managed to understand a lot of things and we've been much better in that regard this year.”

While Perez has a reputation as being one of the best drivers at looking after tyres in the past, he says those skills were not easily transferrable to the Red Bull car concept.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, in the Press Conference

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, in the Press Conference

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“When I came to Red Bull, the way you look after the tyres around the teams is very different,” he said. “So I had to learn a lot on how to look after the tyres in a Red Bull car.

“I think in my first year, I got better towards the end of the year. But, with the regulation change, I was not able to look after them properly.

“I feel now that I'm much better at it. With the understanding of a Red Bull car, I feel much more like a Red Bull driver.”

The progress he has made so far with unlocking what is needed for the Red Bull also leaves Perez confident there is plenty more room for improvement.

“There is still more to come, more and more to come in that regard in becoming more of a Red Bull driver, and the way to drive the Red Bull car,” he said.

“I think, once you are really established in a team, and you understand the concept of a car, you are able to extract the maximum. That only comes with time, and the more time you spend with a team, the better.

“But I certainly believe that I made big steps compared to last year.”

Perez says that running up against a team-mate like Verstappen has not been easy to deal with, which is why he chose to undertake a deep analysis of his driving over the winter.

Asked how he got himself back on track for this year after a difficult 2022, he said: “I'm mentally very strong. That's my biggest strength and that has always been.

“It is not easy being Max's team-mate because he's delivering all the time and he's winning all the time. We’ve seen it in the past that it's not easy for a team-mate to survive.

“I believed in myself but I had to go very deep into understanding the whole concept of the car and making sure that I put the right tools in place to be able to fight.”

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