With four podiums to his name so far this season, Sergio Perez is off to the best possible start to the 2022 Formula 1 campaign, as the Mexican sits third in the F1 drivers’ championship after the seventh round of the year, just 15 points behind current leader Max Verstappen. A big question remains over Perez accepting team orders in favour of Verstappen.
Teammate of the reigning world champion, Sergio Perez is well aware of his place in the Red Bull team, but if the Mexican received a very clear team instruction at the Spanish Grand Prix (assumed and justified by Christian Horner) to favour Max Verstappen, the Mexican driver might not be so accommodating in the future, as the lead of the championship is within reach for him.
Former Renault driver and current F1 commentator Jolyon Palmer believes it will become difficult for Red Bull to continue to give team orders against Sergio Perez.
“He’s having a much better year [than 2021], and I think that in itself will make it less obvious for Red Bull to give team orders. I know they did it in Barcelona, but there were the different strategies and that’s what they put forward. But in a normal race I think it’s just embarrassing for them to give team orders, especially when Perez is leading,” the British ex F1 driver told the BBC.
“He’s doing a good job. And he was definitely faster [in Monaco], although Monaco is an exception in the season and that doesn’t necessarily guarantee you speed in other places.
“We’ve seen that in the past. So it’s a bit of a special circuit. It’s just great that he’s another winner this year and he’s not far from the championship lead,” Palmer enthused and concluded.
From the Red Bull team management, the official line is that Sergio Perez is now just as much in the title race as Max Verstappen and that both drivers are therefore allowed to fight it out on track:
“It doesn’t matter which one of them is world champion. Of course the constructors’ standings are extremely important, but whether it’s Max or Checo, they are both Red Bull drivers and they both have the same chance.
Checo is in great shape, he’s doing a great job and that’s just fantastic for us,” said Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner after the Monaco GP.
This will not please Max Verstappen, or his father Jos Verstappen. Jos took great effort to ensure number one status at Red Bull over the years, to the detriment of Daniel Ricciardo who saw the way things were going at the team and jumped ship to Renault four years ago. Already Jos has spoken out against Red Bull since Monaco, the Dutchman not happy with what appeared to be a preferential strategy that the cost of a win for Max.
For Red Bull, the team sees Perez as a real race winner and potential world champion, proved by the fact the team immediately after Monaco confirmed Sergio Perez’s contract extension for another two years, with the Mexican now guaranteed to drive alongside Max Verstappen until the end of the 2024 season.