Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has challenged Sergio Perez to begin winning races on “normal” tracks to establish himself as a contender for the 2023 Formula 1 World Championship.
Perez won both Saturday’s Sprint and Sunday’s main race to collect near-maximum points in Azerbaijan last weekend to move within six points of Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen at the top of the standings.
The Mexican’s most recent victory was the sixth of his career and his fifth since his switch to Red Bull in 2021, with all of them arriving on street circuit configurations.
Perez’s second win in Azerbaijan marked him out as the only F1 driver to win twice in Baku – having previously won there two years before – and follows on from his triumph in this year’s running of the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix, alongside victories in the Monaco and Singapore Grands Prix last season.
Therefore, Horner has called on Perez to begin translating his exemplary track record at street venues across to more conventional circuits to be considered a serious title rival to Verstappen this year.
“He just needs to do it at a normal track now!” Horner remarked via RacingNews365.
“He’s excelled at street circuits. All his victories, I think certainly for us, have been at street tracks. [It’s the] second time he’s won here. He won in Singapore, he won in Monaco, won in Jeddah.
“We just need to get him going on the proper circuits.”
Horner’s comments were supported by ex-F1 champion Jenson Button, who proposed that a victory for Perez this weekend in Miami would prove he is a credible threat.
However, Perez, having made his best-ever start to an F1 season with two wins in the opening four races, reckons he has already displayed he is in the running this year.
The Red Bull driver asserts he would be even closer to leading the Championship without the problems he had in qualifying in Australia that placed him at the back of the grid.
“Well, I think it’s a long year ahead, you know,” he elucidated. “I really believe that we are in the fight. I think without the problems we had in the qualifying in Melbourne, we should be a lot closer.
“So, it’s important not to have those problems ever again and to minimise the problems, because I think at the end of the day, it’s just very important to make sure that whenever we cannot win, finish second and it’s still a good day still.”
Despite beating Verstappen in a straight fight in Baku, Perez says the win hasn’t changed his approach and the most important thing remains to keep scoring the maximum points possible.
“Well, it doesn’t really change anything to be honest,” he continued. “As I say, I only regret the problems we had in Melbourne, that really made us lose a lot of points.
“But other than that, we have to win the races that we can, and when not, we have to score as many points as possible, because if we don’t do that, then there is no way that we will be able to fight for the Championship. So it’s a very long way ahead.
“There are a lot of races coming up, a lot of different moments, but we have to make sure that when we are able to win a race, we have to make sure we grab it with both hands.”