Tuesday, April 16, 2024

‘Checo’ Pérez starts the 2024 F1 season in Bahrain with a ‘good result’

Mexican Formula 1 driver Sergio “Checo” Pérez, looking to bounce back from the disappointments of last year, began the 2024 season in a one-two finish with Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Unfortunately for Pérez, he was the one who took second place in Saturday’s race.

The 34-year-old Guadalajara native is in his last year of a contract with Red Bull. (@vladimirrys/Instagram)

But the 34-year-old from Guadalajara wasn’t complaining after fighting his way forward from an unenviable fifth spot in the starting grid. Moreover, few these days can get past Verstappen, the sport’s three-time defending champion who won for the 20th time in his last 22 races.

The Dutchman is on one of the most dominant runs in F1 history. On Saturday, from the pole position, he led all the way and took the checkered flag by a whopping 22 seconds over Pérez.

“It’s a good result after starting fifth,” Pérez told the British journalist and former F1 driver David Coulthard after the race. “It was the maximum we could have hoped for today … The 1-2 is positive for the team.”

Pérez, a hero in Mexico, spent much of last season answering the big question of whether he was about to lose his Red Bull seat. In F1, each team has two main drivers, each driving identical cars, and a reserve driver.

Was it a fair question for someone whose 285 points were second only — albeit a very distant second — to Verstappen’s 575 in the 2023 standings? 

Throughout his F1 career, Pérez has won only six times in 258 starts. Two came last year within the season’s first four races, raising hopes that 2023 might be his year. But there were no checkered flags and only three second-place finishes for Pérez the rest of the way. His qualifying skills were called into question, and his ownership team rarely – if ever – praises him.

Pérez recently talked about his 2023 woes in the podcast “F1: Beyond the Grid.”

Even teammate Verstappen didn’t include Pérez when he was asked last week to name which three drivers will finish atop the 2024 standings. He listed himself first, Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton second and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc third.

This season will mean a lot to Pérez, who is in the final year of his contract with Red Bull. The spotlight will be on him again at F1’s next race, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in Jeddah, where he is the defending champion. Qualifying is on Friday and the race will be on Saturday.

With reports from Marca and AP

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