Red Bull’s Sergio Perez has conceded that the RB18 is not suiting him quite as well as it was at the beginning of the season, which would explain his recent downturn in form.
The Mexican has out-qualified Max Verstappen three times this season, but he has not done so since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where he was soundly beaten in the race.
That came after his victory at the Monaco Grand Prix, and it looked as though he was starting to establish himself as a title contender, but his pace has slipped since Canada.
The 32-year-old crashed in qualifying in Montreal before suffering a reliability failure in the race, and he was off the pace in similarly slippery conditions during qualifying for the British Grand Prix as he started the race a distant fourth.
Floor damage for Verstappen as well as a strategic error from Ferrari on Charles Leclerc’s side of the garage meant that Perez finished the race second behind Carlos Sainz, and but he struggled in qualifying again in Austria.
Having initially scraped through to Q3, he was pegged back to P13 after he was found to have exceeded track limits on his last Q2 run and, having recovered to fifth in the sprint race, he was hit by George Russell at the start, ending his race early.
Perez was passed by both Sir Lewis Hamilton and Russell in France while Verstappen won the race.
Had it not been for Leclerc’s crash, Sainz’s engine penalty and confusion for Ferrari when deciding how to serve the Spaniard’s penalty, it could easily have ended as a P6 for Perez on a miserable Sunday last weekend, so he is keen to set the record straight by putting in a strong performance in Hungary this weekend.
“The races haven’t been that straightforward lately,” he conceded while speaking to Lawrence Barretto.
“Hopefully we are able to have a better one this weekend.”
The three-time race winner reiterated that he is not quite as at one with the car as he was at the start of the year.
“We have evolved the car definitely, the set-up and maybe we have missed a bit of direction,” suggested Perez.
“But yeah, hopefully this weekend we are able to recover that.”
Sebastian Vettel announced on Thursday that he will be leaving Formula 1 at the end of 2022 and, having raced with the German since 2011, Perez will be sad to see him go.
“It’s sad to see someone that you’ve spent so much of your life together with [leave], so I mean it’s great to see him leaving, especially such a happy retirement and yeah, wishing him the best and his family in the next chapter,” he said.
Perez sits third in the Drivers’ Standings heading into round 12 in Budapest this weekend, seven points behind second-placed Leclerc and 70 adrift of team-mate Verstappen.