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Perez slump “opening the window” for McLaren F1 title charge

McLaren CEO Zak Brown believes his team has been offered an “opening window” to fight Red Bull for the Formula 1 constructors’ title by Sergio Perez‘s ongoing struggles.

The Woking-based outfit has continued its resurgence from last term in the first half of this season, joining Red Bull at the top of the pecking order with Lando Norris in particular consistently pressurising Max Verstappen for race wins.

Victories for Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton have also assisted by taking points away from the Dutchman, who further lost out when retiring at the Australian Grand Prix.

But whilst the three-time champion has been a model of consistency, team-mate Perez has almost mirrored his mid-season slump from last year with a similar drop-off in form this campaign.

The Mexican has failed to finish in the top five since the Miami Grand Prix – a seventh and two eighths his only points-scoring finishes in the six races since, a run that has included crashes in Monaco and Canada, whilst a spin into the gravel during qualifying at Silverstone left him with a hopeless cause in the race.

His tribulations have allowed McLaren to close the gap to 78 points in the race for the title and, whilst Ferrari sits ahead in second, the Scuderia has itself experienced a drop in form since Monaco.

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Asked about his team’s prospects in the battle with Red Bull, Brown said: “I think it’s going to be dependent upon Perez at the end of the day.

“You’ve just got to assume Max is going to be first, second or third at every race the balance of the year – probably more firsts than thirds.

“Sergio underperforming is what’s opening the window for us. I think if we have the same points gained we’ve had the last six races, the balance of the year, we’d get the job done. So we’re fully aware of it.

Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, celebrates victory with his team

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“But the way Andrea motivates the team, it’s all about this weekend, next session, and the next week. We’re not kinda… we know we can do it but that’s not what’s driving our motivation.

“What’s driving our motivation [is] trying to get better every session, every week, and the outcome will take care of itself.”

McLaren has not been in the hunt for either F1 title since the 2012 season, the last with Hamilton driving for the team, with a mid-decade slump with Honda that followed only now being recovered from.

Whilst the door may be opening, Red Bull’s fast start to the year before rivals began adding upgrade packages to their cars has given the team breathing space at the top of the table.

But on whether there were conversations being held within the team about the chance of success, Brown replied: “I think all of us are [talking]. I think we all went to Bahrain and went ‘right, that’s that championship’.

“It’s going to be epic. Mercedes seems to be very on the pace now. Ferrari are there, about two races ago [Monaco], Charles won.

“So you kind of feel like you’ve got four different teams that are all going to win races in the second half of the year. So it’s pretty awesome – unfortunate the season didn’t start now.”

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