Sergio Perez enters COTA with a shot to give Red Bull Racing another 1-2 finish

Red Bull Perez
Clive Rose / Getty Images

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 Circuit of the Americas.

And the team enters with the momentum of a seven-race winning streak (along with questions about breaching a cost cap last year). Red Bull Racing teammates Perez and Verstappen have combined to win 14 of the first 18 races in the 2022 season.

Notably, Perez finished runner-up Oct. 9 in Suzuka, gaining three points over Charles Leclerc to ease into second place in the championship standings by a single point. It’s a position he wants to hold onto for the remainder of the season.

“It is really important 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 ExxonMobil 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 of buffer.”

Perez has finished second every time in Red Bull’s five 1-2 finishes this season: Imola, Barcelona, Azerbaijan, Belgium and Japan. The additional seven points awarded for first over second would come in handy in any of the four remaining races.

If history can repeat, Perez’s chances of gaining points at COTA 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 an oil pressure problem 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, including four consecutive by Sebastian Vettel (2010-13). Verstappen now has taken the last two, but the team still is seeking its first 1-2 sweep that would bring Red Bull 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 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.”

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing

Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.