• Chris Kato

How Sergio Perez Became An Unlikely Championship Contender

A first win in Monaco and a statement that Checo is well within the 2022 title fight...

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Sergio Perez's captivating Monaco Grand Prix victory broke plenty of records as he crossed the line to finish a shortened race. With his third career win, Perez becomes the most successful Mexican driver in Formula 1 history and also the first Mexican to win the Monaco Grand Prix. On a weekend in which he wore a tribute helmet to Mexico's first F1 driver Pedro Rodriguez, it was an emotional race for Sergio Perez on many fronts both personally and professionally. But more importantly than the personal achievements, Perez's triumph in Monaco has thrown another twist into this thrilling 2022 championship fight. A much improved Perez this season has put him within touching distance of the title lead and the Mexican is showing his team that he's no number two anymore.

Perez and Verstappen Have Same Chance to Win Title?

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As Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen have stolen the headlines this season in their fight for the title, recent struggles from Ferrari and reliability issues for Verstappen have opened the door for another driver to get into the championship mix. Following the events of the Monaco Grand Prix, Max Verstappen extended his title lead over Leclerc to nine points but in the rear view mirror of both drivers, the number 11 of Sergio Perez is very close behind. Checo Perez now sits third in the Driver's standings, 6 points adrift of Leclerc and only 15 points back of his teammate. Interestingly enough, had Red Bull not instituted team orders in Barcelona, Checo Perez would only be one point back of Verstappen for the championship lead and ahead of the Ferrari of Leclerc. The championship picture has recently been blown wide open and has now created a problem for Red Bull that they haven't had in over a decade. With both of their drivers fighting for the title, Christian Horner will have his hands full in the coming races managing team priorities but he's adamant that both drivers will have an equal chance at this year's title. “It doesn’t matter to us which of the two is the world champion,” he said. “Of course the constructors is enormously important, but whether it’s Max or Checo they’re both Red Bull drivers, they’ve both got the same chance.” Time will tell whether the Red Bull drivers will get equal treatment throughout the season, but Perez showed in Monaco that he's more than just a 'team player' and that he himself is capable of being the formidable driver he always insisted he was.

What Are Checo's Realistic Chances At the Title?

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Perez still has plenty of work to do in order to get on Verstappen's level week in and week out. But the Mexican has made a steady step forward in 2022 that is allowing him to be competitive against his once untouchable teammate. The 2022 Monaco Grand Prix was the first weekend since 2018 in which Verstappen was out-performed by a teammate on merit alone. He out qualified Verstappen for the second time this year in Monaco and when you look at the gaps between the two in six qualifying sessions this year, it's much closer than you might think. It shows the improvements the Mexican has made in 2022 and that is allowing him to genuinely have a shot at this year's championship. But being Max Verstappen's teammate hasn't been an easy role in Formula 1 so what are Checo's realistic chances at winning it all in 2022? Some might say Perez has benefited from his teammate's reliability issues and although that is true, it doesn't tell the whole story. Perez has had his fair share of hard luck as well, losing out on a podium in Bahrain, a victory in Jeddah due to an untimely safety car, and maybe even a win in Spain because of team orders. Had a few of these results gone the Mexican's way, it's not hard to imagine Perez being the current championship leader with the run of form he is on. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner acknowledged his driver's great drive after his win in Monte Carlo saying that he's in the form of his life. This is certainly good news for Red Bull who now enjoy a 36 point lead over Ferrari in the Constructor's but things should get very interesting at the team as we head into the summer.

Sergio Perez has played a crucial role in his teammate's success last year and the teams' as well. But the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix was an important statement from Checo that he's not just another Red Bull number two. His latest victory in F1 doesn't feel like a one off but more like a sign of things to come if he maintains this form. At the start of this year, we looked poised for a straight fight between Leclerc and Verstappen but now a Mexican twist has been added to the picture which should make things very exciting. How hard will Perez be willing to fight Verstappen on track and will that lead to internal turmoil in the team? Regardless of what happens in the future, Sunday's race in Monaco was a well deserved victory for a driver who has worked tirelessly to get to the top of F1. Not too long ago, we were preparing to say goodbye to Sergio Perez in Formula 1 and now, he's knocking on the door of F1 championship leader.

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