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.”