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Home   /   2023 F1 Mexican Grand Prix Opinion: Can Checo Rebound or Will He Wane?

Formula 1’s Mexican superhero, Sergio Perez, spectacularly crashed his race-winning car RB19 on the first lap, while vying for the lead in front of a 150,000-strong home crowd last Sunday. The question now looms…

Can he rise from this setback, regroup and mount a last-ditch comeback in the final three acts of the F1 season? Or will “Checo’s” quest for redemption, following the Miami race debacle earlier in the season, lead him down a treacherous path of misfortune, potentially culminating in a disheartening exit from the 2023 season?

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO – OCTOBER 29: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing waves to the crowd on the drivers parade prior to the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 29, 2023 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202310290500 // Usage for editorial use only //

Currently, Checo precariously clings to second place in the overall standings, with a meager 20-point lead over the relentless Lewis Hamilton, who secured the runner-up spot in the recent race.

After his early exit from the race, brought about by a racing “Panini”, as per Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur’s joke, that left Charles Leclerc caught Max Verstappen on the inside and Checo on the outside, Perez sought solace in the confines of the garage and engaged in a heartfelt discussion with Red Bull team boss, Christian Horner.

Horner later share with the media what he conveyed to Checo: “The next race is next week. You’re going for the lead in your home race, you wouldn’t be a racing driver if you weren’t going for it.”

These words unveiled the profound pressure and motivation inherent in competing on home turf. These sentiments, while comforting, underline an undeniable truth. The pressure in professional sports perpetually looms as the threat of premature unemployment, should performance falter, while the motivation stems from Checo’s aspiration to emerge as Red bull’s hero, securing the team’s maiden driver’s championship and runner-up title.

So, what does the mission to secure the runner-up position in the season’s final three race weekends entail? Ideally, it involves clinching victory in each of them. In a more pragmatic sense, it entails trailing the dominant Max Verstappen, who once again sets a new world record for most race wins in a single F1 season, and finishing closely behind him. Stepping back further, finishing ahead of Hamilton would be a commendable feat. What, then, is the strategy for deconstructing the task each Sunday?

It involves qualifying each race ahead ahead of Hamilton, trailing Verstappen closely, or ideally, securing pole position. From this perspective, Checo, who started from fifth position in Mexico City last Sunday, qualified at least ahead of the seven-time world champion.

To secure a favourable starting position, one must focus only on themselves, fine-tune their car setup, and build unwavering confidence through limited practice sessions. In this regard, Checo displayed his prowess during the three practice sessions in Mexico, consistently securing a spot in the top five and trailing Verstappen by a mere 0.202, 0.302, and 0.139 seconds in the three sessions. He got that right. An added bonus: He outpaced Sir Lewis in all three sessions. However, the challenge was formidable at Turn 1.

This column raises the question: If, in the preceding race at Austin, Hamilton hadn’t been disqualified, and if Checo hadn’t maintained a commanding 39-point lead over the British driver before the Mexican Grand Prix, would he have taken the same audacious gamble? Was Checo’s home race mishap a reckless venture or a calculated risk gone awry?

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // Usage for editorial use only //

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May 2024