Christian Horner has conceded that Sergio Perez’s challenge for the 2023 drivers’ title is likely ‘out of reach.’
Max Verstappen’s Sprint and Grand Prix victory double across the Belgian Grand Prix weekend helped to extend his position at the top of the drivers’ standings, and he is now 125 points ahead of his Red Bull team mate Perez, who sits in second.
In the early stages of the season there was a real threat that Perez could take the title challenge to the two-time world champion, with victories in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan backing up his credentials – Verstappen and Perez tied on two wins apiece after four rounds.
But a drop-off in form that began in Monaco, with a string of poor qualifying outings hampering his race days, ended up denting Perez’s hopes of consistently challenging for race victories.
While there has been an improvement in form for the Mexican recently – as his second place in Belgium and third place in Hungary attest to – Verstappen has managed to elevate himself into a class of his own. That was ultimately characterised by the 22-second margin between the two drivers in Spa, despite Verstappen starting the race in P6.
Despite Verstappen’s huge lead in the standings, Red Bull Team Principal Horner believed Perez would still take a lot of self-belief from events in Spa going into the summer break.
“I think he’ll take a lot of confidence from this performance,” he said. “He qualified on the front row, he led the Grand Prix, he finished second, so yeah, he goes into the break a clear second in the drivers’ championship and he’ll take some confidence out of that.”
Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko had also commented to the media in the run up to the Belgian Grand Prix that Perez had woken from “his championship dream”, and that had helped ease the pressure on the driver.
Responding to those comments, Horner said: “We know that Helmut is fairly straight forward in some of his analysis.
“But look, I think Checo knows that, barring a disaster for Max, this championship is out of reach, so it’s about him maximising his own performance, not losing out to any of the drivers behind and trying to pick up a few wins between now and the end of the year.”
Red Bull lead nearest challengers Mercedes by 256 points in the constructors’ standings after 12 races, with Aston Martin 51 points further back. Perez, meanwhile, is 125 points behind Verstappen and 40 points ahead of third-placed Fernando Alonso in the drivers’ standings.
Perez pleased with ‘great team result’ in Spa as he helps Red Bull seal a 1-2