Checo Pérez, chapter three at Red Bull: from the novel with Verstappen to taking care of his place in Formula 1 | Formula 1 | Sports

The Mexican pilot Checo Pérez together with the Dutchman Max Verstappen, during the week of tests in Bahrain.
The Mexican pilot Checo Pérez together with the Dutchman Max Verstappen, during the week of tests in Bahrain.AFP7 via Europa Press

The Red Bull seat burns. Since 2016, being Max Verstappen’s partner means competing against the huge. The structure of the red bull team poured all its engineering, resources and marketing into helping Verstappen become Formula 1 champion. He did so in 2021 and 2022, in a golden double. To get to that point of glory he had to devour his teammates. The last one and who is competing in his third season with Red Bull is Checo Pérez. The Mexican has been the faithful squire of his Dutch colleague, but in the last races of last season something broke.

Pérez was competing for the not inconsiderable world runner-up and it was time to run in Brazil. The Mexican had to score as many points as possible to open the gap against Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Things did not go well on the Interlagos track and he was seventh. Verstappen was ahead. The engineers’ orders were simple: “Let Checo pass”. The Dutchman, already a Formula 1 champion, refused. That was the perfect dynamite to blow everything up at Red Bull. “I don’t know what happened, after what I did for him. If he has two championships it is thanks to me ”, launched a disappointed Sergio Pérez after the race. The perfect relationship between Verstappen and Pérez cracked. The wave of Mexican fans attacked the Dutchman to the point that the family received threats.

Red Bull asked their drivers to make amends. In the two years that Pérez had been in the team he had never had a moment of anger with Verstappen even when he was asked to give up his place or give up points in favor of his colleague. In the days before the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Pérez made a harsh statement on Fox Sports: “It’s important to work as a team and, obviously, if I see that I don’t receive support when I need it, I won’t give it either.”

The energy drink team took a turn when it announced the signing of Daniel Ricciardo as its third or reserve driver. The Australian was forged in Red Bull’s young prodigy academy, debuted and became the main face of the team until Verstappen burst in. Ricciardo left the team in 2019 because he felt displaced and because he had friction with his seat colleague. By 2023 he has returned to have a secondary role, but he has also opened the closet of doubts about whether he will replace Pérez when he stops performing.

Checo Pérez's car during the test weekend in Bahrain.
Checo Pérez’s car during the test weekend in Bahrain. GIUSEPPE CACACE (AFP)

Checo Pérez, 33, had trouble taming the Red Bull car. In 2021 he finished as the fourth best driver on the Formula 1 grid with five podium finishes and a victory in Azerbaijan. A year later, the man born in Guadalajara completed a luxury year with two wins in Monaco (the most outstanding of his career) and in Singapore, as well as 13 podiums. That helped him to be the best season of his life and to be the third best driver in the championship. Added to the achievements of Verstappen and the Mexican, Red Bull also managed to win the constructors’ title, something they had not won since 2013, before Mercedes began its dynasty.

“I’m in Red Bull, the best team in Formula 1, and you can have the driver you want,” Pérez said, referring to Ricciardo, who was fired by McLaren for his lack of results. During the test weekend, the red bull’s car was one of the ones that most dazzled analysts due to its design and aerodynamics. In that session, Pérez finished with the fastest lap, a fact that can be misleading because the moment of truth will be in qualifying this Sunday and, of course, in the race. The threats are the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, in addition to the Ferrari that seeks revenge for its erratic past with Leclerc and the Spanish Carlos Sainz Jr.

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