Speculation surrounding the future teammate of Max Verstappen at Red Bull continues to swirl, with Sergio Perez facing mounting criticism for his disappointing qualifying performances. Dr. Helmut Marko, the motorsport advisor for Red Bull, has been making public comments that suggest he may be considering alternative options.
Red Bull’s decision to bring Daniel Ricciardo back to Formula 1 with AlphaTauri for the remainder of the 2023 season is not only a second chance for the Australian driver but also a warning to Sergio Perez, Verstappen’s current teammate at Red Bull.
Ricciardo lined up for ‘further evaluation’
Ricciardo, who lost his McLaren seat in 2022, had expressed his desire for another opportunity in a top car to showcase his talent. Taking a sabbatical in 2023 seemed like the only option as all the seats were already filled, and he wasn’t interested in joining Haas.
However, a surprising turn of events saw Nyck de Vries being sacked by AlphaTauri after the British Grand Prix, opening up a seat for Ricciardo. This, surely is another move by Red Bull to further evaluate the Australian.
Introducing the honey badger 🍯🦡
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 10, 2023
Warning to Perez
While the decision to bring in Ricciardo is partly due to de Vries’ underperformance, it also serves as a warning to Perez, who has been struggling in qualifying, among other areas. AlphaTauri’s AT04 is widely regarded as the least competitive car on the grid, with only two points finishes so far this season. The car’s instability on corner entry and subsequent understeer in the middle of corners have posed significant challenges. Despite a recent upgrade package, the car’s performance hasn’t improved significantly.
Ricciardo, known for his positive attitude and infectious smile, has taken on the challenge with the hope of securing the second Red Bull race seat alongside Verstappen. At 34 years old, he is aware that he won’t be part of the long-term rebuilding process at AlphaTauri under new leadership.
Liam Lawson, a promising junior driver, could have been a viable option, but Red Bull’s decision to bring in Ricciardo indicates their intention to send a message to Perez to either improve his performance or face potential consequences.
This will also bring into play the scenario of a ‘head to head’ for Perez seat next to Verstappen, the other participate could be a driver not immediately obvious.
Verstappen’s ‘mate’ could be fighting Ricciardo for Red Bull seat
This head-to-head with Ricciardo could well be against a former team mate at McLaren, namely Verstappen friend; one Lando Norris.
The intrigue deepened after Marko was photographed engaging in a meeting with Mark Berryman, the manager of McLaren driver Lando Norris, inside Red Bull’s motorhome.
The British publication, “Telegraph,” published pictures capturing the encounter, fueling speculation about the potential signing of the 23-year-old Norris, who is known to have a good relationship with Verstappen as personal friends for some years.
🚨 Daniel Ricciardo ya rueda con el Red Bull en pista.
¡A por todas, Daniel! 🦡🍯
— Fórmula Directa (@FormulaDirecta) July 11, 2023
Marko very positive about Norris
In an interview with Austria’s “Kleine Zeitung,” Marko made positive remarks about Norris, stating, “He has a contract with McLaren until 2025, but he is by far the strongest of the young drivers. He would also be the best fit for Red Bull in terms of his youthful nature.”
Marko’s public statements and the meeting with Norris’s manager put yet more additional pressure on Perez, who has been struggling to find his form in recent months.
After an impressive start to the season with two wins in the first four races, Perez’s performance has deteriorated significantly. He has failed to reach Q3 in qualifying for five consecutive races and has only achieved one podium finish since the Miami Grand Prix, while Verstappen has claimed dominant victories.
— Richie Dow (@RichieDow90) July 11, 2023
Red Bull rule out mid-season switch due to loss of points
Despite the speculation, Marko emphasized that Perez’s position is secure for the remainder of the year, as the team aims to secure second place in the drivers’ championship. He stated, “If we change drivers, the points score is gone, which is why it’s not even an option for us.”
As the discussions surrounding Red Bull’s future lineup intensify, the pressure on Perez to improve his performance and prove his worth to the team continues to mount.
Only time will tell who will ultimately secure the coveted spot alongside Verstappen at Red Bull.
Almost done, Silverstone 🍯🦡
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) July 11, 2023