Perez says a return to “the podium will be the target” in F1 Spanish GP amid performance slump

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After a string of subpar showings and two consecutive DNFs, Sergio Perez finds himself under pressure to deliver a strong performance this weekend as F1 heads to Barcelona. 

His task will be made all the more difficult by the 3-place grid penalty imposed on him in the aftermath of his crash in the Canadian Grand Prix. 

On lap 53 of the wet-to-dry race, Perez hit a wet patch while driving on slicks, causing him to spin and touch the barriers at Turn 6, with the impact damaging his rear wing. Despite the damage, he got back on track and limped to the pits, shedding debris as he went, which prompted an investigation.

It was later revealed that Perez acted on instruction from Red Bull, as the team wanted to avoid a potential safety car. The stewards imposed a 3-place grid penalty on Perez and issued Red Bull a 25,000 euro fine for leaving the car out on track in an unsafe condition.

“Well, in hindsight there’s nothing differently, you know, because I fully trust my team and what they tell me to do,” Perez said of the incident. “At the time I didn’t have any visibility with my mirrors, I think all the drivers were in the same boat because of the race, they were full of dust, so I had no idea on the damage. 

“I think we’ve seen a lot of similar incidents in the past or just a few races ago and nothing has happened so we were a little bit surprised but nothing we can do now.”

Perez explained that the Canadian Grand Prix was a write-off on his side due to the multitude of issues plaguing him and his car during the weekend. 

“After the weekend we found a lot of issues that we had so I think it’s a weekend that we can basically get rid of because we just didn’t have one issue. We thought at the time we had one issue but when we looked after it there was a couple more issues to it. 

“A bad weekend overall. So yeah, just looking back to where we can be from here.”

The Mexican driver added that he’s been working on understanding and overcoming those issues with his engineers back at the Red Bull factory.

“Yes, we’ve obviously been working very hard the last few days back in the factory and we got a pretty good understanding of things. In Formula 1 we live in such a small margin world that a few things haven’t been in the right spot. 

“The good thing about it is obviously it hurts a lot to have this bad row of races but at the same time it’s great to be back here in Barcelona. I know that if I can do a good race I can get my momentum back, that I had not long ago.”

Perez recently signed a new extension deal that will see him racing for Red Bull potentially until the end of the 2026 season. However, the announcement coincided with a noticeable decline in form, inviting some scrutiny. 

Having failed to make Q3 in the past three races and with two consecutive DNFs under his belt, Perez has slipped to 5th in the Drivers’ standings, behind both Ferrari drivers and McLaren’s Lando Norris.

Speaking ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix, Perez insisted that the current slump he’s found himself in is entirely “different” from the decline he experienced last year.

“Yeah, they’re different. I think we are in a much better place with the car, with the understanding of things. Last year we tried to compensate too many things with the setup at the time and we just made things quite a bit worse.

“So I believe we are in a much better situation, understanding the situation. There were issues that have happened in the last few events that have just put us on the back foot.”

Red Bull as a whole will be aiming for a smoother weekend after their struggles on bumpy circuits saw them lose out to McLaren in Miami and Ferrari in Monaco. 

“I think the tracks, we’ve suffered a little bit with those tracks in particular. Montreal, very low grip and with the issues that we had. Potentially if you have those issues in a normal circuit, normal asphalt, they will hurt you but not as much.

“In Montreal we had those issues that were mechanical error issues and the gap is just tremendously big.

“I think we’ve had a few events, a few races where we’ve been obviously struggling with the ride and then we end up with a lot of compromises and I think I’ve been on my side trying to go for those getting caught up with all the issues so that’s been the main fact.”

As for what’s possible for the team in Barcelona, Perez admitted that he’s aiming for a podium finish: “Well, considering the grid penalty, I think we are able to be the team that gets out of here with the most points on this weekend would be a good one and to be able to get back to the podium will be the target. 

“Probably we come Sunday with the strategy, we might think of something but I think we obviously need a strong qualy to be able to do that.”