F1

We asked Sergio Pérez about winning races, second chances and that nickname

Oracle Red Bull Racing driver Sergio ‘Checo’ Pérez has never performed better than he did in the 2022 F1 campaign. Here's how he did it.
Written by Matthew Clayton
4 min readPublished on
Sergio Pérez of Oracle Red Bull Racing at the United States Grand Prix on October 23, 2022.
© Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool
Sergio Pérez was out of a job, out of luck and backwards in a trackside runoff area at the Bahrain International Circuit, the first lap of what looked set to be his penultimate Formula One race leaving him dead-last and with a mountain to climb. Figuring he had nothing to lose, Pérez got his Racing Point going, and pressed on to see what could happen.
Pérez went from last to first to win a madcap 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, his first F1 victory in his 190th start while becoming Mexico's first F1 winner in 50 years. Twelve days later, he was announced as Max Verstappen's team-mate at Oracle Red Bull Racing for the 2021 season. And now, two years after his career looked set to be stopped in its tracks, Pérez has never been better.
Pérez finished 2022 with more wins (two), poles (one), podiums (12), fastest laps (three) and points (305) than any single season in his career – and the result was a career-best third place in the drivers' world championship, finishing the year in third place in the season finale in Abu Dhabi to just miss out on a runner-up finish in the standings.
Drivers rarely hit new heights when they're in their 12th F1 season and their 32nd year, but 2022 is in keeping with Checo's highly unusual career trajectory. A win in Azerbaijan last year preceded further victories in Monaco and Singapore this season, marking him as F1's foremost street fighter while giving him job security that would have been unthinkable not so long ago.
Sergio Pérez of Oracle Red Bull Racing at the Monaco Grand Prix on May 29, 2022.
Pérez's precision has shone on street circuits this season
When asked why his results have ramped up at a time where many drivers are slowing down, Pérez finds it hard to pin his performances on just one factor.
"In general it's been a good season," he says, citing a recipe of more confidence, motivation and enjoyment as the catalysts for his career-high championship finish.
"I lacked a bit of consistency throughout because I would have liked to be in the fight for the title – but generally it has been a strong season for the team."
Sergio Pérez of Oracle Red Bull Racing at the Monaco Grand Prix on May 29, 2022.
Winning Monaco would have been a pipedream for Pérez not so long ago
Pérez admits that being so close to the F1 exit door changed his perspective, and made him celebrate the small victories that have led to bigger – and better – things.
"Once you are truly out of the sport, you realise how difficult the opportunities are and also that this will end one day," he says.
"You are aware of that probably more than you were before. It makes you enjoy it even more, because it makes you realise how tough the earlier moments were. It's been super enjoyable."
My country has been unbelievable, how they support me. It's been immense – it makes me super happy with everything
This season saw the Pérez-Verstappen partnership propel Oracle Red Bull Racing to its first constructors' title since 2013, and it's proved so potent that extending the Mexican's contract until the end of 2024 was a no-brainer for both team and driver when it was announced in July.
In a career that began for Sauber in Australia back in 2011 and has seen him drive for McLaren, Force India and Racing Point before Red Bull, Pérez is now vastly experienced – only 11 drivers have started more Grands Prix in F1's 73-year history – and well placed to comment on what makes this year's constructors' champions different to his previous addresses.
Sergio Pérez of Oracle Red Bull Racing at the United States Grand Prix on October 23, 2022.
Pérez and Verstappen have proven to be a potent combination
"The team is very strong, altogether very solid," he says.
"It has a great group of people, everyone working for the same goal. The mentality… it's all about winning, always working for the next goal and the next target, and that has been super impressive."
What else is different for Pérez these days? For one, his popularity has skyrocketed; at October's Mexico City Grand Prix, Checo's visage adorned seemingly every billboard and TV ad, and was a huge reason why 395,000-plus fans turned this year's race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez into a three-day fiesta.
Secondly, he's acquired multiple monikers over his time with the team, not least being crowned the 'Minister of Defence' after his crucial role in assisting Verstappen in the 2021 title decider in Abu Dhabi following his robust battle with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton.
"I'd prefer the Minister of Attack," Pérez says with a laugh.
"I certainly feel I'm fair – I'm very aggressive, but I always normally give good space, I feel I'm someone you can race with, and I think that's quite enjoyable. There are not many drivers out there you can go wheel-to-wheel with."
Sergio Pérez of Red Bull Racing Honda at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on December 12, 2021.
“A legend” was how Verstappen described Pérez after holding up Hamilton
When asked about what the intensity of the adulation from his homeland has been like as his results have risen, Pérez struggles to find the right words to explain how much it means.
"The amount of support I get has been… surreal," he says.
"My country has been unbelievable, how they support me. It's been immense – it makes me super happy with everything."

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