Sergio Perez accused of shooting himself in the foot with Max Verstappen comment

Sergio Perez is on the chopping block at Red Bull amid a sharp dip in form this year.

1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has attributed Sergio Perez’s recent decline in performance to his bold statement about fighting for the 2023 Formula 1 title, which in turn motivated his Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen. 

Villeneuve believes that Perez is not on the same level as Verstappen.

Perez made an impressive start to the 2023 season, securing victories in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan and closing the gap to Verstappen to just six points after four rounds. 

However, since then, the Mexican driver has only reached the podium twice and has failed to make it to Q3 for the fourth consecutive race at the Austrian Grand Prix, while Verstappen claimed his fifth consecutive victory, extending his lead by 81 points.

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Villeneuve suggests that Perez’s downfall can be traced back to his statement about challenging Verstappen for the championship. 

He believes that Verstappen was motivated by the challenge, coinciding with Perez’s loss of momentum and disappointing qualifying performances in Australia, Monaco, Spain, and Canada.

The former champion emphasized that a driver with serious ambitions of winning the World Championship cannot afford to make the kind of mistakes Perez made in Friday’s qualifying session in Austria, where track limit infringements resulted in multiple lap deletions and a 15th-place grid position.

Villeneuve expressed his views to Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport, stating, “Sergio started to drop in performance soon after he said: ‘Now I will fight to win the Championship.’

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“In my opinion, that statement gave Verstappen an extra boost – and he, on the other hand, started to suffer and make mistakes. 

“I know that every driver has to understand what his level is. And Sergio is not at Max’s level. 

“Yes, he is capable of going as fast as him, but not over the whole season. 

“If you say something like that, then you can’t make mistakes like he did on Friday in qualifying [in Austria].”

Despite Red Bull’s dominant position in the Constructors’ Championship, with a 199-point lead over Mercedes and having won all nine races so far this season, Perez’s dramatic loss of form has led to speculation that Red Bull may consider a change in their driver lineup.

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Following a team orders controversy in Brazil last year, the drivers clashed once again on the opening lap of the rain-affected sprint race at the Red Bull Ring, as Perez pushed Verstappen onto the grass while they fought for the lead.

When asked about the possibility of Perez being dropped from the team, Villeneuve stated, “At Red Bull, the drivers are always at risk. It’s normal.” 

When further pressed if this applied to every driver at Red Bull except Max Verstappen, he replied, “No, everyone who is not at that excellent level.”