Checo Perez defiant: You don’t go from winning races to being a bad driver

The Red Bull driver qualified and finished second in Formula 1's second sprint race of the 2023 world championship

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Sergio Perez insisted he hasn’t lost confidence and is still a good driver after sprint Saturday at the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix proved his best day of Formula 1 since he took pole in Miami.

After failing to reach Q3 in four consecutive races despite driving the dominant Red Bull, Perez finally put it together in the sprint shootout and secured second place on the grid to complete a front-row lockout for the team.

And he initially took the lead from Max Verstappen on a controversial opening lap, but then had to battle back into second place against Nico Hulkenberg and finished over 20 seconds down on his teammate.

“I mean, I haven’t lost it,” Perez told the media. “You don’t go from winning races to all of a sudden be a very bad driver.

“I think people in this sport forget the amount of detail we’re operating at and when you don’t have everything together then you see a big difference.”

Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez of Mexico talk in parc ferme after their contentious opening lap of the 2023 Austrian GP sprint race | Clive Rose/Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull heightens scrutiny on bad performances

Perez was the first driver recruited to Red Bull from outside their junior setup since Mark Webber in 2007, following failures for Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly in the top team.

It’s been a mostly successful partnership with Perez helping Verstappen to two drivers’ championships and almost beating Charles Leclerc to second place in 2022.

However, 2023 has been the first time cracks have genuinely started to show for the Mexican, as after a fantastic Azerbaijan GP victory he’s struggled in qualifying and not been able to challenge Verstappen on raceday.

It threatens to snowball into the kind of streak that ended Albon and Gasly‘s Red Bull careers so shortly, but Perez said he’s already feeling back to his best and added any struggles are magnified at the Milton Keynes outfit compared to other teams.

“Already yesterday, if it were not for the track limits, I think I would have qualified a lot higher than I did,” Perez added. “So yesterday, I got caught out with it, unfortunately, but I think this weekend has been more solid than the last few.

“I know that I’ve had a rough period. Many drivers have had that but it seems to be even bigger when a Red Bull driver has it.”

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