Checo Pérez, on the podium of the Las Vegas Grand Prix after finishing third early Sunday morning.ETIENNE LAURENT (EFE)
There’s a vignette-turned-meme showing an athlete celebrating on the podium like never before, but when the shot starts, you see him wildly celebrating third place, even more than the winner. Something like that happened in Mexico with Checo Pérez. The driver secured second place in the Formula 1 World Championship this weekend, which represents an absolute milestone for Mexican sport: no driver has ever reached the elite of the elite. In fact, only a handful of athletes were able to sit at the same table as the greats.
Pérez finished third at the Las Vegas Grand Prix in a memorable race where he started eleventh. The one from Guadalajara has stayed true to his style and fought his way out of adversity to climb positions. In fact, things went wrong from the start, as his front wing was damaged in a collision with Fernando Alonso. The Red Bull driver accelerated, took advantage of other incidents on the track and took the lead for long stretches of the race. He lost positions to Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, although it was his achievement to finish third in a chaotic race.
The Mexican fought for second place in the Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship. Five races before the end of the year, Verstappen consolidated his triple championship. Checo Pérez had to fight against Lewis Hamilton, nothing more and nothing less, the seven-time world champion. The championship double victory is something unprecedented for Red Bull, a team that entered Formula 1 in 2005. In addition, Pérez made a name for himself in the history of the sport by participating in two constructors’ world championships.
The doubts that the Mexican could achieve this were based on the fact that he had had an irregular season: in the first five races he seemed unstoppable with two wins and two second places. He was the biggest threat to Verstappen at the time. There was talk of ambitions to become world champions. On the sixth day, the Mexican finished the Monaco containment fences in the classification. With this crash his dreams ended.
Checo Pérez during a press conference in Las Vegas. CAROLINE BREHMAN (EFE)
Since no date is known, next Sunday in Abu Dhabi the Mexican records two victories in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan (in addition to the victory in 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 where his car couldn’t finish the race: in Japan and in Mexico, where it was all or nothing and it ended in an afternoon of pain. His other poor results were 16th in Monaco, tenth in Qatar, eighth in Singapore, fifth in Australia and sixth in Canada.
“I think that after Barcelona or in Barcelona I had the most dominant car in history, but it was very difficult to find the setup to be able to maximize it on the weekends.” “At the same time the other teams have improved a lot and the mistrust grew on our side,” Pérez commented this weekend. “When you are at Red Bull there is too much outside noise which sometimes makes it very difficult to concentrate. There is a media pressure that no other team has, but beyond that our crisis was real,” admitted the Mexican.
For weeks there has been a debate among Formula 1 experts about whether Pérez should stay with the team, whether Daniel Ricciardo should replace him or whether he should be fired by Red Bull, as was the case with other drivers such as Daniil Kvyat, Pierre Gasly or Alex der The case was Albon. Christian Horner, team leader, defended the Mexican and made it clear that Checo Pérez will continue with them in 2024, the last year of the Mexican’s contract.
Checo Pérez’s evolution has been good: from sixteenth best driver in 2011 with Sauber, to seventh with Force India in 2017, to fourth during his time at Racing Point in 2020, to third with Red Bull in 2021 and now second Place. The statistics confirm what Pérez once said jokingly: “My career, like wine, gets better every year.”
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