Sergio Perez believes he is very much in the Formula 1 title race with team-mate Max Verstappen this season. The Mexican is riding a wave after winning the Monaco Grand Prix last time out, his third race win in F1 and his second since joining his current employers. It was a result which put him within just 15 points of championship leader Verstappen who crossed the line third.
His strong performances this season and the faith placed in him by Red Bull have led to suggestions the 32-year-old might be a contender for the title. Charles Leclerc is Verstappen’s closest rival, just nine points behind, but a confident Perez could be in the mix as well if his form stays strong. Asked ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix if he feels he has the chance to fight for the title this season after his new contract, Perez replied: “It was signed on Friday before Monaco and we didn’t discuss [receiving equal treatment to Verstappen]. There is nothing in my contract that says I need to finish second, or something like that, it was not a topic in the contract at all.
“As a driver you want certainty, you want to get that stress out of the way, so the earlier the better. It takes so much energy and so much focus to be a hundred percent weekend by weekend, so you don’t need that thinking. So, it was good that we agreed so early on that contract. And yeah, I feel like I’ve got a good opportunity [to compete for the title], but obviously the season is still very young so anything can happen from now.”
Perez’s first victory for Red Bull came at the venue for this weekend’s race. The 2021 edition of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was Verstappen’s to lose at one point, but a left-rear tyre failure saw him dramatically crash out of the race – fortunately his team-mate was there to pick up the pieces. On how to be successful on a demanding circuit, the Mexican added: “I think Baku is all about confidence. It’s all about not making mistakes because here what really can catch you out is making those mistakes, losing track time, starting on the back foot, and you can compromise your weekend fairly easily here, so it’s very important to stay out of trouble.”