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Autosport Top 50 of 2023: #50 Sergio Perez

2nd in Formula 1 World Championship

Top 50 2023 dotcom50

Top 50 Drivers of 2023

Autosport's team of expert journalists got together to try to assess who were the top 50 drivers of 2023. Here are the results.

One of this year’s biggest questions in deciding the top 50 was whether Perez deserves to be on the list. He’d started 2023 well, with two wins and two second places in the opening four races to hint at giving Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen more than a notional title challenge.

After his Miami defeat, when Verstappen breezed past for the lead, Perez’s season started to crumble. In a car that has proved to be F1’s most dominant since McLaren’s MP4/4, the Mexican struggled to make regular podium appearances, limping to the runner-up position in the championship. The two wins get Perez over the line, but he’s lucky to be on this list.

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Where it all went wrong for Perez in 2023

It seemed that little could stop Perez in Baku. Charles Leclerc got pole position for both races in the sprint weekend, but could do little to stop the Red Bull driver from roaring past on either occasion. Then there was Max Verstappen's ill-timed pitstop, as Red Bull reacted too quickly to Nyck de Vries' Turn 5/6 wall-bang and blinked before the safety car, putting him behind Perez once his team-mate had claimed a cheaper stop.

While leading, Perez suffered a small scare when continuing to ward off Verstappen's attempts to get within DRS range once the Dutchman had caught up. A brush with the Turn 15 exit wall on the 34th lap led to a brief panic, but Perez reckoned that the "really hard" contact had actually knocked the suspension into a slightly better place.

Victory in the Azerbaijan GP was followed by a nightmare run of performances

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Victory in the Azerbaijan GP was followed by a nightmare run of performances

"I think it was very close between us," the Mexican mused post-race. "We pushed to the maximum today, we both clipped the wall a few times we were pushing out there. The way Max pushed me throughout the race was really hard but we managed to keep him under control."

PLUS: Why Perez’s best race proved to be his F1 2023 downfall

Heading into Miami, the Red Bull drivers were two apiece on wins. Verstappen made a mistake in qualifying, and his second attempt at a pole-contending lap in Q3 was nixed when Leclerc put his Ferrari in the wall at Turn 7. Pole went to Perez, who spent the first stint batting away Fernando Alonso as Verstappen began his recovery from ninth on the grid. He was up to second by lap 15.

Verstappen went long on the hard tyre in his opening stint, assuming the lead when Perez pitted from the medium tyre to ensure that he was within touching distance of his team-mate. When Verstappen stopped on lap 45, he spent just two laps tucked up behind before snatching the lead to crush Perez's hopes of leaving Miami with the championship lead.

That was the transition point. Verstappen went on to win the next nine races in a record-breaking run, while Perez arguably started to try too hard and embarked on a run of five straight races without making Q3. So much for a title fight, then...

 
Few would have predicted Perez's drop in form after winning two of the opening four F1 rounds

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Few would have predicted Perez's drop in form after winning two of the opening four F1 rounds

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