RACE DEBRIEF

    Sergio Perez has acknowledged the “challenge” it will be to topple Max Verstappen in 2024, as he targets going one better than his runner-up spot last year.

    The Mexican looks well placed to get another crack at challenging for the drivers' title he craves, alongside his three-time champion team mate at Red Bull Verstappen, and will hope the form he showed at the start of 2023 can continue this time around.

    READ MORE: Perez thanks Red Bull for keeping faith through ‘very tough times’ as he plots 2024 fightback

    Perez started last season brilliantly, taking two pole positions and two wins from the opening five races. But thereafter his challenge for the title came unstuck, thanks primarily to his inconsistent efforts in qualifying.

    Adamant that he doesn’t want to play second fiddle to Verstappen for a fourth campaign in a row, the 33-year-old told media prior to the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that he was determined to improve on his runner-up spot from last season regardless of how difficult it would be.

    ZANDVOORT, NETHERLANDS - AUGUST 27: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red
    Sergio Perez's title challenge came unstuck as Max Verstappen led the way for the majority of 2023

    “That’s the main target for me because I’ve already finished second,” he said. “My main interest is to do one better. I’m aware of the challenge that it is, we’ve got to really take this winter time to try to start the season on a high and be able to maintain that level of consistency throughout the season.”

    The previous campaign threw up all sorts of challenges for Perez and, despite helping to claim Red Bull’s first ever one-two in the constructors', he still wound up 290 points behind his championship-winning team mate in the standings.

    READ MORE: Horner admits 'everything is open' for 2025 Red Bull line-up with Ricciardo back in the fold

    But the Mexican was also keen to explain that he had one of the best vantage points in working alongside Verstappen, and was keen to learn what he could from a driver who has been so dominant recently.

    “Definitely there are things you learn from [Max],” Perez explained. “Obviously I have the best reference out there because he was the one who was so competitive, so I think there’s no harm in looking at what he’s doing, how he’s doing it, try to learn and improve.

    “[You can] see what works for you, what he’s doing differently to you. I’ve always had a very open approach and I think it’s something that works well.”

    MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 13: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing (L) and Max
    There was no shortage of silverware for Red Bull last year

    Perez also faced plenty of outside pressure in 2023, amid talk that his seat could come under threat should his performances not improve – pressure that ramped up when former Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo returned to a front-line drive with AlphaTauri midway through the season.

    With that in mind, the six-time race winner was also able to explain what he felt he had learned about himself in what was a rollercoaster campaign.

    READ MORE: Verstappen admits McLaren could be ‘very strong’ in 2024 following impressive turnaround

    “I think it’s about the car, it’s about how I was making use of it and how I can make better use of it – through the weekends, through different circuits and all of that,” he explained.

    “I think I made a lot of progress together with my engineer in understanding how to maximise the performance of the car.”