Sergio Perez has handed Max Verstappen a huge opportunity to extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship on Sunday after crashing out of qualifying at the Monaco Grand Prix, leaving the Mexican to start the hardest race of the year from last.
Perez was eliminated in Q1 for the second time in the opening six races of the 2023 Formula 1 season, with the 33-year-old having pushed too hard into the opening corner.
Having set an initial push lap, Perez approached Sainte Devote with too much speed, resulting in him losing the rear of the car.
As a result, the left-hand side of his car heavily collided with the wall, causing significant damage to his RB19.
Perez’s car came to an immediate halt in the middle of the Circuit de Monaco, with a red flag having been flown to clear the wreckage.
With the track having rapidly evolved, Perez was bumped to last during the opening part of qualifying, meaning he’ll start from P20 for the toughest race of the year.
It was an embarrassing error by the Mexican, who will need the performance of a lifetime to simply get into the top 10 on Sunday.
Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko was quick to criticise Perez for making such a “stupid mistake”, with him having failed to utilise the best car on the grid.
“If you have a car like that, you shouldn’t be out in Q1,” Marko told Sky Deutschland.
“That was a stupid mistake on his part. Maybe he was thinking too much about the championship.”
To add to Checo’s woes, Verstappen will start the race from pole position, following perhaps the best lap of his F1 career.
Verstappen discovered three tenths in the final sector to snatch pole position from Fernando Alonso, with Marko having labelled the reigning World Champion as “perfect”.
“After Max was already two-tenths behind Alonso on his last lap, we thought it wouldn’t work out,” explained Marko.
“But the third sector is our strength. Max was absolutely on the limit, perfect and got the maximum out of the car.”
If Verstappen wins on Sunday and claims the fastest lap, then he could leave the Principality with a 40-point lead over Perez, should the Mexican fail to score a point.
Unless something truly remarkable happens, Perez won’t be claiming a second consecutive win at the legendary venue.