Horner delivers home truth to Sergio Perez after struggling to match Verstappen

Christian Horner has suggested that Sergio Perez needs to focus on improving his qualifying performances if he is to close up to Max Verstappen next season. The Mexican driver ended the year an unprecedented 290 points behind the now-three-time world champion in the Drivers’ Championship standings.

Verstappen capped off what will go down in history as arguably the greatest individual season in F1 history in typical style, too. The 26-year-old defended valiantly from Charles Leclerc on the opening lap before stretching his legs and cruising to a dominant Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

While the reigning world champion clinched his 19th Grand Prix win of the season, Perez was forced to settle for fourth place after a five-second time penalty relegated him behind both Leclerc and George Russell at the chequered flag. 

Discussing the state of play with Perez, Horner told Sky Sports F1: “I think that the last few races he’s had a bit of a reset though, and his pace when you look at the analysis through this weekend again was strong. He’s just got to sort his Saturdays out.

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“His race pace is there. His racecraft is fantastic. He’s probably overtaken more cars than anybody this year. But we just need him to be starting in the first four rather than ninth or tenth or whatever his average has been over the last few races.”

Horner is right to call into question the Mexican’s qualifying record. Perez only outqualified his team-mate on two occasions in 2023, and he failed to reach Q3 altogether at nine different races. With an average qualifying finish of ninth, there were seven drivers who performed better on Saturdays this season.

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Asked whether or not his performances could cost Red Bull next season should the chasing pack continue to converge, Horner replied: “Well he still finished second in this World Championship and won some great races and put in some great drives.

“But I think he knows where his areas to improve are. I think a little bit of a reset in terms of how he goes about his racing next year as well. He knows it’s a big year for him and he’ll take a bit of time this winter to reflect on where he needs to improve and I’m sure he’ll come back fighting next year.”

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