It seems like a lifetime ago when Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez was being tipped as a championship contender against team-mate Max Verstappen; however, fast forward four months and the Mexican couldn’t be any further from his dominant team-mate.
Pérez started the season magnificently and even claimed a famous victory at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Monaco was hugely significant, with Pérez having beaten reigning World Champion Verstappen on pace and merit alone.
When the Red Bull number two was celebrating on the top step of the podium at the Principality, it really did look like he was going to take the fight to his imperious team-mate; however, Monaco almost spelled the downfall of the Mexican’s season.
Since Monaco, Pérez has slumped considerably and has failed to win since.
The Mexican has been beaten on a number of occasions by both Mercedes drivers despite the German’s having a much weaker car compared to Red Bull’s RB18.
With six races remaining, Pérez currently occupies third in the Drivers’ Championship, but is a staggering 125 points behind Verstappen, who will potentially wrap up his second consecutive title at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Pérez sits just nine points behind second placed Charles Leclerc, but only seven points ahead of the magnificently consistent George Russell.
So much looks set to change in the battle from second to sixth, with just 51 points separating Leclerc to sixth placed Sir Lewis Hamilton, with Pérez, Russell and Carlos Sainz sandwiched in between.
So just where has Pérez’s early season pace gone?
Red Bull’s technical director Pierre Waché has put the 32-year-old’s dip in form down to “multiple factors”, with the team favouring upgrades to suit Verstappen appearing to be one of the reasons, without Waché admitting it.
“It is multiple factors,” said Waché.
“The main factor is clearly the car balance and the confidence with a car, compared to the beginning of the year when the car was a little bit more balanced for him and a little bit less for Max.
“And after the development potential we have put on the car during the season, moving away from that is maybe a part of it.
“Finding a right set-up for him, it is quite difficult, to put him as confident as he could be to beat, or to fight with Max.”
Despite having signed a two-year contract extension early in the year, it would be difficult to imagine that Pérez will still be at Red Bull in 2024 if he takes his poor form into 2023.
Pérez has achieved just one podium in the last six races, something which seems virtually unfathomable given the fact that he was just 15 points behind Verstappen after his famous Monaco win.