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Pérez issues a reminder of his ability with a strong performance at the Hungarian GP

Sergio Perez Sergio Perez - The Canadian Press

Sergio Pérez certainly picked the right moment to secure a Formula One podium at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

A third-place finish gave Pérez a 32nd career podium but his first at the Hungaroring. It also issued a timely reminder of his ability, and took some pressure off the Mexican veteran's shoulders following a poor run of form.

This was only Pérez's second podium in the past six races.

If that sounds reasonable, think again, because he's in a dominant Red Bull car that has won all 11 races so far. Nine of them were for Max Verstappen, who clinched a seventh straight victory in typically assured style.

Pérez joined him in the Champagne-spraying celebrations, having started from the ninth spot on a track considered the toughest in F1 for passing aside from the street circuit at Monaco.

“This performance, this race, helps confidence,” the 33-year-old Pérez said. “From now on I just look forward to being on the podium every single weekend. Let’s keep it up.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was relieved and quick to praise Pérez.

“I think he drove a great race today. His recovery and overtaking was brave and his pace was fast,” Horner told race broadcaster Sky. “He was on fire.”

Having won two of the first four races this season, Pérez declared himself a championship contender — a claim he backed up by taking pole position at the Miami GP in May.

But after finishing second there behind Verstappen, his form started to nosedive to the extent that he's already 110 points behind the runaway leader Verstappen, after just 11 races.

Heading into Hungary, Pérez had failed to qualify in the top 10 for five straight races — an aberration in such a fast car — in a spell which included a dismal 16th-place finish in Monaco.

To make things worse, he made a rookie-style error by crashing just three minutes into Friday's first practice session in Hungary. It happened the same day that former Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo made his F1 return with AlphaTauri — the Red Bull junior team.

That quickly sent the F1 rumor mill spinning into operation.

Speculation abounded that a strong second half of the season with AlphaTauri could even see Ricciardo taking Perez's seat next year at Red Bull, such is the ruthless world of F1.

Pérez responded in the best way he could on Sunday, with one of his best performances for some time.

He made no errors and produced a couple of bold passing moves on Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. and Mercedes driver George Russell: the first on the inside, the next on the outside.

It was exactly the sort of audacity Pérez needed to show, and so felt like a vindication for Horner after publicly backing him.

“A race like that only gives you a huge amount of confidence," Horner said. "For me, that was a statement drive today which says ‘Don’t write me off.’”

Another podium spot at the Belgian GP next weekend will take more pressure off Pérez heading into the mid-season break.

“You learn from mistakes, you become a better driver and you move on,” Verstappen said, supporting his teammate. “We’re first and second in the championship."


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