Sergio Perez‘s future at Red Bull Racing beyond 2024 depends on his performance, as he needs to close the gap with teammate Max Verstappen and avoid costly crashes, despite dissatisfaction with his performance during the 2023 season and potential replacements being considered.
‣ Sergio Perez has a contract with Red Bull Racing until 2024, but his performance in the 2023 F1 season has led to speculation about a potential replacement.
‣ Despite dissatisfaction with Perez’s performance, Red Bull Racing has shown trust in him for 2024 due to a lack of obvious improvement options.
‣ Perez’s performance issues include causing over $3 million in damages due to crashes in 2023 and a decrease in speed compared to previous years.
‣ To retain his seat, Perez needs to close the performance gap with teammate Max Verstappen and avoid causing further damages to the team.
Sergio Perez is contracted with Red Bull Racing till 2024. But, there’s a buzz that Red Bull might be hunting for a replacement. So, what’s Perez gotta do to keep his spot next to Max Verstappen?
After the 2023 F1 season, it might seem nuts, but Perez holds the reins of his future at Red Bull Racing. Christian Horner hinted that it’s Perez’s seat to lose. Meaning, if Perez delivers, Red Bull Racing won’t have much reason to ditch him.
Why Red Bull are eyeing other drivers
Perez didn’t exactly win hearts during the 2023 season. Helmut Marko criticized him multiple times, and there were whispers about other potential candidates for the seat. Especially Alexander Albon, who Marko praised but lamented that he’s stuck at Williams till 2024.
Red Bull Racing trusted Perez for 2024 because there wasn’t a better option. Daniel Ricciardo hasn’t shown much since his comeback. Lando Norris decided to stick with McLaren and many others, including Albon, are tied to their current teams till 2024. But, things will change after that. Red Bull will have plenty of options, so it’s on Perez to prove he’s worth the seat. With Max Verstappen, Red Bull has a front-runner who’s always a safe bet for the world championship. So, they need a second man who can help them win the constructors’ world title without causing too much internal drama.
Where Perez slipped at Red Bull Racing
Perez has pulled off that task twice since he joined. In 2022 and 2023, Red Bull won the constructors’ world championship, and in 2023, they even bagged first and second in the drivers. A great feat for the team and Perez, but not entirely surprising given the RB19’s dominance.
So, why the doubts about Perez? It boils down to two things: his performance compared to Verstappen and the damage from his crashes. The latter is straightforward. In 2023, Perez caused over $3 million in damages. A hefty price for his team. Only Logan Sargeant and Carlos Sainz (partly due to the Las Vegas crash) caused more damage.
Perez’s speed is the other issue. From 2021 to 2022, he was on an upward trajectory, but in 2023, he took a step back. That didn’t hurt Red Bull Racing in 2023, but as competition intensifies, it’s questionable whether Perez is still up to par.
Let’s rewind to 2021, Perez’s debut year at Red Bull Racing. Expectations were low. Perez had to adapt to a car designed for Verstappen and a new team. But, he did well. He seemed to be an upgrade over Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon. He closed the gap with Verstappen and didn’t make as many mistakes as the younger drivers. He was crucial to Verstappen in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2021. Scoring 200 points less than Verstappen and losing four-tenths per qualifying was seen as a good start.
In 2022, Perez kept improving, especially at the start of the season. With a car not yet perfect for Verstappen and tracks that suited Perez, he outperformed his teammate in a few races and qualifying. Verstappen won the world title, and thanks to Perez’s improved performance, Red Bull Racing also won the constructors’ world championship. Perez closed the gap with Verstappen in points and qualifying.
Red Bull rewarded Perez with a contract through 2024. They hoped that with security, Perez could make another leap in 2023. But, Perez got ahead of himself. A good start to the season and support from Mexico made him aspire to be world champion. This woke the lion in Verstappen, who crushed Perez in Miami. Perez took hit after hit and was mentally exhausted. He didn’t win any more races and saw the gap with Max widen. He was back to square one.
What Perez needs to do to keep his Red Bull seat
So, it’s not shocking that Marko started looking for alternatives for Perez. Norris didn’t convince for a switch, Albon was fixed, and for Daniel Ricciardo, Marko thinks it’s too early to return. So, Perez might drive for Red Bull for another year, with his fate in his hands.
As complex as Formula 1 can be, sometimes it’s pretty simple. Things are calm at Red Bull now, and you don’t mess with a winning team. If Perez doesn’t give them a reason to part ways, Red Bull would be nuts to let him go. You never know what you’re getting with a new driver.
Perez needs to close the gap with Verstappen on Saturday. Ideally, a bit closer to the Dutchman. The bigger the gap, the more likely other drivers will be between the two Red Bulls on the grid. As competitors get closer, Red Bull needs a strong second man near Verstappen.
That’s true on Saturday and Sunday. The difference between Verstappen and Perez doubled in 2022. In 2023, that difference was enough to win the constructors’ title and even finish second among drivers. But if McLaren, Mercedes, Ferrari, and Aston Martin get closer, one has to wonder.
Perez isn’t expected to challenge Verstappen for the title. Verstappen won’t be easily upset, but Red Bull’s complete confidence also gives him an extra boost. Perez needs to stand by him more than anything else. Win/pole position when Verstappen is unlucky or has a lesser weekend. That’s Perez’s task. It sounds simple, but it’s tough with Verstappen as your teammate.