Sergio Perez's hopes of challenging for the 2023 F1 drivers' title took another hit this weekend, after an underwhelming performance across the Spanish Grand Prix.
The Mexican driver has been losing ground to teammate Max Verstappen rapidly across recent races, with qualifying crashes costing him dearly both in Melbourne and in Monaco.
Perez's qualifying woes would continue in Barcelona, as he could only manage 11th place while Verstappen took pole position.
In Sunday's race, Perez managed to work his way back up to fourth place, but a routine and comprehensive win for Verstappen now has him 53 points ahead of Perez in the F1 drivers' standings.
The performance of the #11 Red Bull was a point of debate on Sky Sports F1 post-race, with the Red Bull team principal Christian Horner joining the panel to discuss the race.
In a rather frosty moment, he called out 2016 F1 world champion Nico Rosberg for his criticism of Perez.
F1: Horner and Rosberg disagree in awkward Sky interview
Sergio Perez's recovery to P4 in Sunday's Spanish F1 Grand Prix was undoubtely impressive - but, with George Russell starting behind Perez in the inferior Mercedes, and managing to finish in P3, questions could be asked of whether Perez got the most out of his Red Bull car.
Nico Rosberg said as much when speaking to Perez's team boss Christian Horner on Sky F1 post-race:
Christian, you were just saying he did a good race. I thought he had quite a lack of performance, especially in the early part of the race. Isn't that true?
Really comparing to Max, there were some laps where it was quite a gap.
Rosberg, who won the 2016 drivers' title before retiring just days later, has worked as a pundit for Sky at various European races in recent years.
"Now you're not in the car you're happy to criticise all these guys" 😤
Nico Rosberg questions Christian Horner about Sergio Perez's performance today... pic.twitter.com/TOu6Sxkyf0
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) June 4, 2023
Horner was not happy with the ex-Mercedes man's comments, and said that Rosberg had become too comfortable criticising other drivers since his own retirement:
You're quite a critical kind of guy, though, aren't you? You're tough on these guys.
Now you're not in the car, you're happy to criticise all the guys.
He lost out in the early laps and he didn't have a great start.
Checo, his race was getting stronger and stronger and in that last stint particularly, he was really coming back very strong. Just not enough laps to fight for the podium.
Christian Horner referenced a controversial incident which saw Russell - who started beside Perez in P12 - go off track on the first lap and end up ahead of Perez on track. The F1 stewards did not penalise Russell, who ultimately finished in P3, directly behind teammate Lewis Hamilton to complete Mercedes' first double podium of 2023.
Rosberg, who drove for Mercedes for seven years after their return to F1, asked Horner if he was impressed by their improvements in recent races - and Horner had a cutting remark to put their success into perspective:
Well, they were still 23 seconds behind at the end of the race. They made a good step, but we've got some stuff in the pipeline.
They've had a big upgrade, we've got some bits coming later into the season.
Max Verstappen and Red Bull are comfortably in the lead of the F1 drivers' and constructors' standings after seven races in 2023.