What is Sergio Perez’s secret to street circuit supremacy in F1?

The Mexican ruled the streets of Baku for his second win of the 2023 F1 season

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Some Formula 1 drivers are naturally faster at certain circuits. Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone, Fernando Alonso at Catalunya and Max Verstappen… pretty much everywhere.

But Sergio Perez‘s niche is becoming more and more important as the years go on because he has now built a reputation as the street circuit master.

The Mexican scored his sixth F1 victory at the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix having also won the sprint the following day and this was on pure pace too over Verstappen in the same Red Bull RB19.

Sure, this year’s dominant car helps him to succeed compared to the other 18 drivers not in a rocketship but he still has the stupendously tough task of beating Verstappen on the day.

When it comes to the streets, Perez has the Dutchman’s number more often than not.

Staggeringly sublime

You can’t claim Perez suffers from claustrophobia given how well he performs when the walls are closing in on him but that level-headedness must be a significant factor.

The 33-year-old always seems to know where the limit is and you rarely see him make an unforced error leading to a big crash or time loss in a race.

That experience might just be where he edges Verstappen on the streets because the two-time world champion may have to tone down his incredible ability to avoid such accidents whereas Perez does what he usually does and it works.

Sprint winner Sergio Perez of Red Bull celebrates after the Sprint at 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix | Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Swinging pendulum

F1 used to have only a couple of street tracks per season with permanent road courses as the preferred option but recent races added to the calendar, such as Saudi Arabia, Miami and soon-to-be Las Vegas, are all certified street tracks.

The more confined circuits F1 adds to the calendar, the more the pendulum swings towards Perez rather than Verstappen. Let’s not forget that of Perez’s six wins, five have come on temporary tracks – Baku twice, Singapore, Monaco and Jeddah – and his only win came in the chaotic Sakhir Grand Prix of 2020 when he raced for Racing Point.

His ability to race at, but not over, the limit more consistently has given him a foothold in the world championship and there are plenty more streets to be raced on before the end of the year.

Joe Ellis
Joe Ellis
Joe Ellis is a motorsport journalist with experience working in BTCC. He is the resident IndyCar correspondent for Total-Motorsport.com and a top class F1 writer.
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