One round after Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen wrapped up his second championship with his Japanese Grand Prix victory, the focus shifts to getting Sergio Perez a career-best points’ finish as Formula 1 comes to America for the second time this season for the 10th edition of the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA).
And they enter with a lot of momentum with a current seven-race winning streak. Between them, Red Bull Racing teammates Perez and Verstappen won 14 of the first 18 races of the 2022 season.
Notably, Perez finished runner-up last week in Suzuka City. In doing so, he gained three points over Charles Leclerc to ease into second place in the championship standing by a single point. It’s a position he wants to hold onto for the remainder of the season.
Red Bull finished first and second in five races this season: In the Romagna GP, Spanish GP, Azerbaijan GP, Belgium GP and last week in Japan. Verstappen won all of them. But with a razor-thin margin over Leclerc entering COTA, the additional seven points awarded for first over second would come in handy in any of the next four races.
Last year, Perez came to the Americas fifth in the points and earned a lot of momentum.
“It is really import and crucial (in the Americas races), to have two strong performances, one in Austin and one in Mexico,” Perez told NBC Sports this week via Zoom while he was visiting the Exxon Mobil campus in Houston, Texas. “It would be great to get a lot of points in these next two races so we can go into the final two with a bit buffer.”
If history can repeat itself, Perez’s chances of gaining points this week are high. Last year, he entered the United States Grand Prix fifth in the standings before rattling off back-to-back podium finishes in Texas and Mexico. One round later, he was fourth in the Brazilian Grand Prix with his sights set on a top three points performance. An accident in the Saudi Arabian GP and lost oil pressure in Abu Dhabi denied him that finish, but he tied his previous career-best rank of fourth.
The lessons were not lost on Perez, who knows he needs to consistently outperform Ferrari’s Leclerc in the final four rounds of 2022. The good news is that his momentum from last year has the potential to dominate.
“I had two good races [last year],” Perez said. “I was on the podium on both of them, so I hope I’m able to get everything in place in the final four races. I want to finish it on a high note because I want to start proving we’re a contender for the championship.”
In 18 seasons, Red Bull scored five championships prior to 2022. Sebastian Vettel won four of them consecutively from 2010 though 2013. Verstappen has now taken the last two, but what they are missing is a one-two sweep. Achieving that goal brings the team to a new level.
“That would be amazing for the team,” Perez said. “It’s never been done in our history; it would be great to do it for the first time.”
And with Verstappen already clinching the title, it’s time for the focus to shift to Perez.
“I expect to get much more support from everyone at the team, to try to get the maximum points for us.” Perez said. “Certainly, I think that if Max is in a position where he can support me, I believe that he will.”
There is not a lot of pressure on Perez for the moment. In May, Red Bull announced a contract extension through 2024 for the Mexican driver and now is the time to make good on that promise.
“It means a lot it’s a great moment for everyone,” Perez said. “We just have to make sure to carry that forward for the next few years.”
With his Formula One future in the balance, Daniel Ricciardo could be a candidate to join Haas F1 next season, but the team said the driver must make the first move.
McLaren bought out the final season of Ricciardo’s contract after two underwhelming seasons. The popular Australian is currently jobless for 2023.
“If he’s interested in us, he’s not shy to call me up. I am not going to chase him down,” Guenther Steiner, team principal at Haas, told The Associated Press on Monday.
F1 makes its second stop of the season in the United States this weekend at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and the only American-owned team is one of only two with seats open for next season.
Team owner Gene Haas has given Mick Schumacher the remaining four races to prove he deserves a third year in the seat. If Schumacher is not retained, Haas would join Williams as the only teams with seats still open for 2023.
A crazy summer of free agency moves only included Ricciardo because McLaren wanted him out of his seat. Since he accepted the buyout, several other drivers have either received contract extensions or have made other 2023 plans.
Steiner said no driver has been signed yet for the Haas seat alongside Kevin Magnussen, and that he’s had little contact with Ricciardo since he sent the driver a friendly text during the height of summer speculation about Ricciardo’s job. Gene Haas acknowledged to the AP on Sunday the organization has had conversations with other drivers about Schumacher’s seat.
Ricciardo is not one of them.
“I want him to decide what he wants to do for himself, first, before being talked into something,” Steiner told the AP. “I think he’s a good driver, and I don’t know how he got in the situation he’s in now, but I think he needs to come clean with himself and decide what he’s going to do.”
Steiner finds Ricciardo’s last two seasons perplexing. Although he did score a win last season, Ricciardo has been a tremendous disappointment at McLaren and is consistently outrun by teammate Lando Norris and next year is being replaced by countryman Oscar Piastri, a rookie.
“For us he would be a big hit. He was a race winner and now he is without a job,” Steiner said. “He was a race winner just last year. I rate him as a driver, I have no idea why he doesn’t perform right now. That is for him to figure out.”
As for the open seat at Williams, where Nicholas Latifi is not returning, American Logan Sargeant will make his F1 debut on Friday when he participates in the first practice session. He will be the first American on track during an F1 session since Alexander Rossi in 2015.
Sargeant is a Williams Academy driver currently competing in F2. The Florida native is hoping to fill the Williams seat and become the first American since Rossi in an F1 race.