Is Sergio Perez a bad driver?

Is Sergio Perez a bad driver? 

Sergio Perez is going through a truly horrible run. A driver who aimed to challenge for the title this season after he won in Baku is now looking ahead to a campaign where he has been unable to even be a consistent Q3 contender. So drastic has been his drop in performance that fans and pundits alike have seemingly already passed a verdict.

Every race weekend, whether it be pundits or the fans on social media, calls of Perez being a liability grow stronger by the day. So much so that many have remarkably started saying that the Mexican driver does not deserve a seat at a top team like Red Bull.

This is precisely what leads us to a very important question. Is Sergio Perez just a bad driver? Did Red Bull make a bad call when it decided to hire him? Most importantly, should he be replaced by someone else? To make an educated judgment on something like this, I feel it’s important that we take a look at Perez’s career and then take a call on it.

Sergio Perez’s career (Before Red Bull)

Sauber (2011-12)

Kamui Kobayashi

Qualifying: 21-17

Race: 10-12

Points: 80-90

Podiums: 3-1

Sergio Perez made his debut in F1 with Sauber in 2011 and he was paired up with Kamui Kobayashi. A very potent partnership between the two drivers saw Perez truly make an impact in his second season when he challenged Fernando Alonso for the win in Malaysia. The Mexican ended up finishing the race behind the Ferrari driver but did end up announcing himself on the big stage.

In 2012, using Sauber’s ability to keep its tires alive and his own smoother style of driving, Perez was able to score two more podiums and secure a promotion to McLaren, replacing Lewis Hamilton at the time. In his two years, he was outscored by Kobayashi by 80 points to 90, but it was the eye-catching performances that propelled his status on the grid.

Overall he held a slight edge in qualifying while he lost out to Kamui 10-12 in the races that both drivers finished.

McLaren (2013)

Jenson Button

Qualifying: 9-10

Race: 6-13

Points: 49-73

Perez’s swift promotion to McLaren had disastrous results for the Mexican driver as he was outperformed by the experienced Jenson Button.

After just a year with the team, Perez was shown the door as he took his next career step by joining Force India.

Force India (2014-18)

Nico Hulkenberg (2014-16)

Qualifying: 25-35

Race: 20-24

Points: 238-226

Podiums: 4-0

It was during his time at Force India that Perez truly shined. In his three-year partnership with Nico Hulkenberg, Perez will remarkably secure four podium finishes compared to none for his German teammate. He marginally outscored Hulkenberg 238-226 in their years together.

In terms of qualifying and race head-to-head (when both drivers finished), Hulkenberg was ahead even though the showcase results came from the Mexican. With the German leaving Force India for Renault, Perez welcomed rookie Esteban Ocon to the team.

Esteban Ocon (2017-18)

Qualifying: 19-22

Race: 15-16

Points: 162-136

Podiums: 1-0

In a somewhat fractious two-year relationship with Esteban Ocon, Sergio Perez outscored his young teammate 162 points to 136.

Ocon was a rookie when he joined Force India alongside the Mexican and while both the qualifying and the race head-to-head were marginally in his favor, Perez got the bigger results and hence the better points tally.

Racing Point (2018-20)

Lance Stroll

Qualifying: 28-9

Race: 18-7

Points: 177-96

Podiums: 2-2

Wins: 1-0

After Ocon, Sergio Perez had Lance Stroll as his teammate and the partnership went as many would expect.

The Mexican dominated the younger Canadian and it was during this stint that we won his first F1 race in Bahrain.


Now, looking at these numbers, what we can see here is that since 2014, there are two things that stood out. Perez struggled a bit in qualifying overall against both Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon.

On the other hand, what made him stand out was the races where he stunned everyone with impressive performances. The podium finishes with Force India was what made him standout and similarly, it was the win in Bahrain that helped develop his reputation.

Sergio Perez came across as a strong midfield driver who could put together a weekend where he gets the better of everyone else.

Red Bull (2021-Present)

Max Verstappen

Podiums: 24-50

Wins: 5-38

Points: 1249.5-718

For his stint at Red Bull with Max Verstappen alongside him, we’re not sharing our comparison of qualifying and races because they’re horribly one-sided. Even if we take a look at the number of podiums or race wins or the number of points, it’s just too one-sided.

There is no comparison or competition between Perez and Verstappen as we see utter domination from the Dutch driver.


Looking at how the partnership has panned out, Sergio Perez has been completely dominated by Max Verstappen. There’s hardly any competition. Except for very rare occasions when Perez has finished ahead of his teammate, it’s been a one-way traffic.

To make things worse, this season with pressure mounting on Perez, he’s become prone to mistakes. Hence we’ve seen races like the one in Monaco or in Suzuka where he crashed too much.

What led to such a downfall?

The thing that we can see here quite clearly is that there hasn’t been any downfall as such. If we look at Sergio Perez’s career, there has been a clear pattern. He’s been a bit slower than his teammates in qualifying and it has been his ability to pull off a few freak results here and there that have helped him stand out in the midfield.

When you’re teaming up against a phenomenon like Max Verstappen and fighting against him in the same car every race, you will get exposed. The minor shortcomings are just magnified because of the relentless nature of Verstappen’s performances.

Perez was a solid midfield driver who struggled in qualifying and will pull out an impressive result once in a while which will stand out in a season. That hasn’t changed at Red Bull either. It’s gotten a bit worse this season because he has been under serious pressure lately.

Overall though, even if he was not under pressure, you can still expect Perez to struggle in qualifying, be decent in races, and maybe once in a while pull off a strong result.

That’s the ‘Sergio Perez’ package which was on offer from the beginning and not much has changed. If he continues to be a part of Red Bull, it will be more or less the same.

Should Red Bull replace Sergio Perez?

This question is entirely up to Red Bull because they need to be sure of what they need from the second driver. Do they need a second driver that could challenge Max Verstappen? If that is the case then Sergio Perez is not the driver for the team. They probably need to pursue a Lando Norris in that situation.

If they need Sergio Perez to just improve his performances a little and be more competitive then they need to back him and instead of piling on the pressure maybe offer an olive branch.

There is a third option, however, the option where Red Bull picks a driver in between the massive gulf between Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. A driver who is better in qualifying and hence will be closer to Verstappen at the start of the race does the job as the wingman.

Red Bull has arguably two choices in Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg who could fit the role. Daniel might still be an unproven entity but the races in AlphaTauri could help Red Bull assess where he stands. Hulkenberg has shown impressive qualifying pace and that is one name that the team considered in 2020 before signing Sergio Perez as well.

Is Sergio Perez a bad driver?

At the end of it all, to answer the question that we started this article with. Is Sergio Perez a bad driver? The answer is no. He’s not a bad driver. He’s a strong midfield driver up against the talent of the generation. He’s under pressure to keep up and that is what has made him look so average.

To be fair, Sergio Perez is not the only driver who went through this against Max Verstappen. Both Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon suffered the same fate. Hence, to conclude, no, Perez is not a bad driver, he’s up against a very distinguished benchmark that has made him look average.

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