Checo Pérez, on the podium of the Las Vegas Grand Prix after finishing in third place, early Sunday morning.ETIENNE LAURENT (EFE)
There is a vignette that mutated into a meme that shows an athlete celebrating like never before on the podium, but when the shot opens you can see him wildly celebrating third place, even more than the winner. Something like this happens in Mexico with Checo Pérez. The driver secured second place in the Formula 1 World Championship this weekend, which is an absolute milestone for Mexican sport: never before has a driver reached the elite of the elite. In fact, only a handful of athletes have been able to sit at the same table as the greats.
Pérez finished in third place in the Las Vegas Grand Prix in a memorable race where he started from eleventh position. The one from Guadalajara, faithful to his style, started from adversity to climb positions. In fact, things went wrong from the start because his front wing was damaged in a collision with Fernando Alonso. The Red Bull driver turbocharged, took advantage of other incidents on the track and took the lead for a good stretch of the race. He lost positions to Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, although reaching third place in a chaotic race was his feat.
The Mexican was fighting to secure second place in the Formula 1 drivers’ world championship. Verstappen consolidated his three-time championship five races before the end of the year. Checo Pérez had to fight against Lewis Hamilton, neither more nor less the seven-time world champion. The 1-2 in the championship is something unprecedented for Red Bull, a team that entered F1 in 2005. In addition, Pérez carved his name in the history of the sport by being part of two constructors’ world championships.
The doubts that the Mexican could achieve it were based on the fact that he had had an irregular campaign: in the first five races he looked unstoppable with two wins and two second places. He was, at that time, the biggest threat to Verstappen. There was talk of aspirations to be world champion. On the sixth date, the Mexican finished in the Monaco containment fences in the classification. With that crash his dreams ended.
Checo Pérez during a press conference in Las Vegas. CAROLINE BREHMAN (EFE)
In the absence of a date, in Abu Dhabi next Sunday, the Mexican registers two wins in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan (in addition to winning the sprint race), four second places (Bahrain, Miami, Belgium and Italy) and three third places (Austria , Hungary and Las Vegas). He finished fourth in Spain, the Netherlands and Brazil. Although he had two races in which his car couldn’t finish the race: in Japan and in Mexico, where he went all or nothing and ended up in an afternoon of pain. His other poor results were sixteenth in Monaco, tenth in Qatar, eighth in Singapore, fifth in Australia and sixth in Canada.
“I think that after Barcelona, or in Barcelona, I found myself with a car that was the most dominant in history, but it was very difficult to find the set-up, to be able to maximize it on the weekends, at the same time the other teams improved. a lot and distrust grew on our side,” Pérez commented this weekend. “When you are at Red Bull there is too much external noise that sometimes makes it very difficult to focus. There is media pressure that no other team has, but beyond that our crisis was real,” the Mexican admitted.
For weeks there was a debate among Formula 1 experts whether or not Pérez should continue in the team, whether Daniel Ricciardo should replace him or whether he should be fired from Red Bull, as happened with other drivers such as Daniil Kvyat, Pierre Gasly or Alex Albon. Christian Horner, team leader, defended the Mexican and made it clear that in 2024, the last year of the Mexican’s contract, Checo Pérez will continue with them.
Checo Pérez’s evolution has been good: from being the sixteenth best driver in 2011 with Sauber, seventh with Force India in 2017, fourth in his time with Racing Point in 2020, third with Red Bull in 2021 and now second. The statistic confirms what Pérez once jokingly said: “My career, like wine, gets better every year.”
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