Motor racing: Verstappen and Perez both chasing firsts in Mexico

Red Bull's Mexican driver Sergio Perez (left) and Dutch teammate Max Verstappen during an event at the Museo Soumaya in Mexico City on Oct 26. PHOTO: AFP

MEXICO CITY Sergio Perez could make history as the first Mexican to win his home Formula One grand prix on Sunday but another victory for Red Bull teammate and two-time world champion Max Verstappen would be a record for a single season.

With the drivers’ and constructors’ titles already wrapped up by Verstappen and his team, there is still plenty to play for on either side of the Red Bull garage.

Verstappen, a three-time winner at Mexico’s high-altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, is on the brink of becoming the first driver to triumph 14 times in a single season.

The 25-year-old knows that statistic is not quite what it seems, with more races than ever before this season, but he wants to win every race he enters.

There are 22 in 2022, whereas German greats Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel each won their 13 in 2004 and 2013 respectively when the championship had 18 and 19 rounds.

“Of course I’m proud of winning a lot of races, but I don’t really look at these kinds of stats. I’m just happy winning races,” Verstappen said after winning in Austin, Texas, last Sunday for Red Bull’s eighth victory in a row.

Asked what might happen if he were leading Perez into the last lap in Mexico, knowing how much it meant to his teammate to win in front of his home fans, the Dutchman was firm in his reply: “I win”.

Perez returned to his home city of Guadalajara on Tuesday, doing demonstration runs, spins and tyre burnouts in front of a cheering crowd of more than 130,000.

“I will give 100 per cent to win for these fans in Mexico,” said the 32-year-old who triggered party scenes when he finished third in Mexico in 2021 and returns locked in battle with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for second overall this term.

“This has been one of the most special days of my career and I would like another moment this weekend.”

Perez has won twice this season – in Monaco and Singapore – and would relish a third.

Organisers expect more than 350,000 fans over the three days in Mexico City.

Mercedes and Ferrari will also be hoping to get in on the act, with Mercedes’ seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton still chasing his first win of the season.

Off track, Red Bull and the FIA will resume talks about the team’s breach of the 2021 budget cap and what the punishment might be. REUTERS, AFP

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