Sergio Perez says his confidence was shattered this season by a Red Bull car that moved out of his comfort zone, which led to struggles not only out on the track but also at home where his cheerful demeanor was nowhere to be found.
And yet the Mexican's 2023 campaign kicked off on a strong note, with Perez and teammate Max Verstappen trading wins in the first four races of the year.
Perez's confidence at that point was such that he dared dream of a banner year and world championship spoils.
But after the fifth round in Miami, the 33-year-old's ambitions and confidence took a turn for the worse and entered a downward spiral that his claims was triggered by the subtle development changes of Red Bull's dominant RB19 contender, a car he could no longer wrap his head around.
"When the season started, the car suited me perfectly. But cars evolve during the season," Perez explained in an interview with Dutch newspaper De Limburger.
"After Miami, things went downhill. I had a different car that didn’t suit me so well. Then I failed to get into Q3 several times, so my confidence dropped. As a result, the driving went a lot less as well.
“I struggled a lot in the summer. In the beginning, I was competing for the world title but, from May onwards, that changed.
"I was driving without confidence. At one point I just didn’t come out [of Q2]. That was very tough. Because you drive with a top team, the pressure to perform increases quickly."
Perez's issues were compounded by Verstappen's relentless forward March that would lead to a record ten consecutive wins achieved between Baku and Monza.
To the outside world, the magnitude of Perez's underperformance suggested that the Mexican was simply a country mile adrift from Verstappen in terms of talent and that his days were numbered at Red Bull, as had been those of Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon before him.
However, team boss Christian Horner repeated that Perez was contracted to Red Bull until the end of 2024 and therefore no change to the team's lineup were foreseen.
Perez also took advantage of F1's summer break to sit down with his engineers in a bid to rebuild his confidence.
"I didn’t give up and kept working hard with the engineers to sort things out," he said.
"My self-confidence came back when I realised that I won races under my own steam earlier this year.
"I dare say I am 100 per cent again now. And I also have the conviction again that I can have a shot at the world title next year."
Only time will tell if Perez's hopes are an extreme case of wishful thinking. But last week's catastrophic Japanese Grand Prix, a penalty and clash strewn affair for the Mexican, offered no indication that he has turned a corner.
Perez also revealed that he had hired a mental coach to help him deal with his struggles and to prevent his racing frustrations
from bubbling over into his family life.
"When you are having such a hard time with your work, it is difficult to be cheerful at home with your wife and children," he admitted.
"So I hired a mental coach because my family deserves to have that cheerful father at home. Together with my coach, I worked on becoming the best version of myself at home, but also as a driver.
"As a result, I found positivity again. I am now 33 years old, but I am still learning every day. On the track, but certainly also off it. Partly because of this, I will never get tired of Formula 1.
"It’s really amazing what this sport still gives me."
Until the day it takes everything away…