Sergio Perez has been the talk of the paddock for most of the season. He first appeared to be a genuine challenger to his team mate for the world champion prize on offer.
Though a huge mistake in Australia when qualifying saw him start the Grand Prix in last place and was the first indication all was not well with the Mexican driver.
Perez worst run since Coulthard
Perez failed to make final qualifying on five consecutive occasions despite each time his team mate claiming pole position.
His average starting position over the five races preceding the Hungarian Grand Prix was 14.6 and the worst for a Red Bull driver since David Coulthard back in 2007 who averaged 14.8 over the European, Hungarian, Turkish, Italian and Belgian Grands Prix.
However 2007 was a very different year given Red Bull had at that times failed to record a single race win.
Since Hungary, Perez has seen a return to form in terms of race finishes at least with two second places finishes, a third and a fourth in addition.
Ricciardo replacement hopes fade
Yet his qualifying performance still leaves a lot to be desired. In last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, Checo found himself behind his team mate, two Ferrari’s and a Mercedes as he struggled to get within 0.4s of his team mates pole position time.
Red Bull have repeatedly stated that Perez has a contract for next season but as Daniel Ricciardo can attest to a driver contract at the pinnacle of motorsport is no guarantee of an actual drive.
Ricciardo appeared to have been brought into the AlphaTauri team to asses whether he can replace Perez next season, but his unfortunate crash and injury first race back after the Sumer break has now put this in jeopardy.
Sergio claimed earlier this season, “with a family at home in Mexico, I wouldn’t be doing this if I did not believe I could win the world championship.”
Perez confirms “looking for alternatives”
At present this would only be possible if Checo is driving a Red Bull car and so the implication was he would retire when his time with the world champions came to a close.
Yet now, Sergio appears to be singing a different tune and believes he has a future beyond his Red Bull closing races.
“With the season we have had, it is important to hold the next races in an environment where I feel I can contribute. And that place for 2024 [he likely meant to say 2025] is not here [at Red Bull], we will have to look for other alternatives,” Perez told DAZN Espana.
“But right now, my main focus is to be here, win more races, continue winning championships with Red Bull. I have a contract until next year and at some point next year we will sit down and talk.”
Where can Perez go?
Its difficult to understand where Sergio could go and continue with aspirations to win an F1 drivers title and with young talent coming through. The likes of Oscar Piastri, Liam Lawson and most probably Felipe Drugovitch joining the F1 grid will inevitably mean some of the old guard will have to give way.
Ricciardo’s injury which looks worse now than at the time and may only see the Australian return for the race in Qatar, may just have given Sergio a lifeline for next season, but given the deficit he has to Verstappen its questionable whether other teams will perceive hm to be their man pot the moment.
So for Sergio it looks like retirement is beckoning beyond the 2024 season, but who will replace him alongside Max will be the next huge F1 debate.
Tsunoda does not look capable of driving for the Big Bull team and for Liam Lawson it will be too early in his career, given the junior Red Bull teams previous history.
Checo’s Red Bull replacement
Red Bull have admitted trying to recruit Lando Norris twice only for Christian Horner to admit, “the next day he signed for McLaren.”
Horner also believes Red Bull would be more accepted back home in England were they to have a British driver on board and Lando Norris recently welcomed the idea of racing alongside Verstappen one day.
“It’s definitely something I would be open to in the future. I think it’d be great to work alongside someone like that and, at the same time, see where I can really stand against him. I’d be open for it,” Norris revealed.
McLaren Indystar crossover important
Norris is under contract with McLaren until the end of 2025, but should Red Bull come calling Zak Brown might simply extract his pound of monetary flesh from the world champions and attempt to recruit one his Indycar stars such as Mexican young star Pato O’Ward – to his Formula One team.
McLaren need to deliver by creating room in Formula One for the best of their Indycar stable because the doubts of this transfer potential almost certainly cost them a shot at recruiting Indycar’s honest property, in the form of Alex Palou – who has now claimed two titles in just four seasons across the pond.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 4, 2023