‘Checo’s not an idiot’: Toto Wolff shocked by Sergio Perez

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is baffled by Sergio Perez's "odd" situation at Red Bull.

Sergio Perez has shed light on his performance decline in the 2023 Formula One season, coinciding with his teammate Max Verstappen’s growing familiarity and success with the Red Bull car. 

Verstappen’s exceptional feat of clinching nine consecutive victories has recently drawn attention, and he attributed his triumphs to the time it took to fine-tune his synergy with the single seater.

Recalling his journey, Verstappen stated, “When I understood how to work with the car it became really, really good to drive.” 

This sentiment underscores the pivotal role that an intricate understanding of the car’s nuances plays in achieving remarkable results.

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While Verstappen’s mastery over the Red Bull machine steadily increased, Perez found himself emboldened by the prospect of challenging for the championship title, even securing wins at the Jeddah and Baku circuits. 

However, his trajectory took an unexpected downturn. 

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes, expressed his perplexity at Perez’s sudden dip in form, describing it as “odd” and “bizarre.”

Wolff mused, “Checo’s not an idiot. We have seen in all these years he is a grand prix winner, multiple grand prix winner, and he was at Racing Point, so I cannot comprehend.” 

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Acknowledging Verstappen’s prowess in outperforming his teammates, Wolff speculated on Verstappen’s ability to tailor a car to his unique driving style, potentially leading to the creation of a car that is both challenging to control yet exceptionally fast.

For Perez, the post-Baku phase marked a turning point where his driving ceased to come naturally. 

He confessed, “In the last races I was a little behind and always consciously thinking about how I should drive the car.” 

The evolution of the car’s dynamics appeared to misalign with Perez’s preferred approach, necessitating heightened effort on his part to keep up with the evolving vehicle dynamics.

In Formula One, a loss of confidence can trigger a cascade of challenges, including an increase in errors and a struggle to maintain basic performance levels.

Perez recognised this phenomenon, sharing, “In Formula 1, if you are not completely confident with the car at 250kph in a corner, then you start to doubt a little more, and that is what happened in those moments.” 

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The psychological impact of diminished confidence can amplify any performance issues a driver faces.

Despite the setbacks, Perez expressed resilience and determination to persevere.

He acknowledged the temptation to give in to the difficulties but emphasised the necessity of persistence. 

“It would be easy to sit down and say ‘This is too hard for me’. But in the end, you just have to keep going,” he affirmed.