Sergio Perez continued to accumulate problems after another tough race, this time at the Austrian Grand Prix.

The Mexican driver could only finish P7 behind Nico Hülkenberg’s Haas and that was with two direct rivals in Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc out of action.

Sergio Perez’s painful pace comparison with Max Verstappen

Sergio Perez suffered another painful race for Red Bull at the Austrian GP. The Mexican has achieved his best result since Miami, that’s true, but his performance was still not at the required standard.

Carlos Sainz has overtaken him this weekend in the Championship for P4 and Oscar Piastri and George Russell are both within eight points now of overtaking him as well.

After a great start, where Perez managed to pass Leclerc and later be aggressive with Oscar Piastri to reach P6, his pace dropped lap after lap.

On lap 8, the McLaren driver chased him down and from then on he was unable to keep pace with the leading group. While Piastri opened a gap of two seconds, Nico Hülkenberg with his Haas kept his head up and faced the pace of the Mexican.

His main aspiration then was to finish P7 – at that moment – after Leclerc had to make an early stop to change his front wing and his race was mainly over. What Perez and Red Bull didn’t count on was that he would be battling with a magnificent Haas team in Austria.

Kevin Magnussen came in early on lap 10 to undercut Esteban Ocon for P9. However, in doing so, he forced Hülkenberg to stop on the following lap, who was P8 ahead of the Alpine Frenchman and just +1.5s behind Perez to defend position.

Red Bull understood that this was no real threat and that despite being able to get out behind with a later stop, the pace on a much fresher tyre would easily put them back into P7.

Race Strategy Austria top 10

Race Strategy Austria bottom 10

In fact, the Mexican stopped on lap 22 and came out just behind Magnussen – who had undercut Hülkenberg, but then lost track position – at just +0.7s.

And with Hülkenberg virtually +2.5s behind, it looked like an easy task with the hard tyre 10 laps fresher, and so it was: by lap 27 Perez was back in P7.

On lap 32 though, the stewards penalised Perez with +5s for speeding in the pit lane. Until that lap, the gap over Hülkenberg was +4s so that rookie mistake could cost him a position. But Perez pushed hard and managed to increase the gap, partly thanks to fresher tyres.

By lap 40, with just under half the race to go, Perez had opened a gap of +9.8s over Hülkenberg. And the German driver pitted again for another set of new hard tyres to make it to the end. Perez stayed on track until lap 52.

The strategy was clear and it was the same as before the first pit stop. To secure P7 by having a tyre advantage over Haas at the end of the race. However, as with Max, Red Bull decided to fit the used medium tyre instead of a new hard tyre.

And unlike in the first stint, this time Perez got behind Daniel Ricciardo at the pit exit due to the 5 second penalty he had to serve.

He had to overtake Ricciardo on track before going for the Haas who were already +3s ahead of the Red Bull driver.

That is to say, without the penalty, Perez could certainly have finished comfortably ahead of Nico Hülkenberg as he would have come out of the pits without pit traffic.

Driver tracker Sergio Perez Austria

Perez passed Ricciardo quickly and on lap 57 got past Magnussen to stay within three seconds of Hülkenberg on a fresher, softer tyre. Within just three laps – lap 60 – Perez was already inside Hülkenberg’s DRS window. It looked like the story was over here.

However, Perez could not overtake Hülkenberg easily despite being 10 laps behind the German’s car. He finally made it on the final lap at Turn 3, but the German came out with better traction and overtook Perez again on the straight before Turn 4 thanks to the Haas’ high top speed and the help of the DRS.

A real masterclass from the future Audi driver.

Race pace Hulkenberg Perez Austria

The most worrying thing about this is not that Perez finished behind a Haas. Without the penalty, this surely wouldn’t have happened. What is really painful is his pace comparison with Max Verstappen.

Just before the accident between Max and Lando Norris on lap 64, Perez was one minute and two seconds behind Verstappen. In other words, Max had been almost a second per lap faster on average than him. It is true that Max drove almost the entire race in clean air, but the strategy of the two was almost identical and it is too much of a difference to justify such a high pace deficit.

Race pace overview

Even though he had to do almost half a lap with a puncture, an extra pit stop and 5 seconds more penalty than his teammate, Max Verstappen finished P5 two positions ahead of Sergio Perez and with an almost 18 second gap with him.

Red Bull has to start thinking about whether it has made the best decision by renewing Perez’s deal ahead of a frenetic second part of the 2024 season and a year in 2025 where everything seems to be even tighter than now and it will be even more essential to have two solid drivers.

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