Much has been written this season about the genius of Max Verstappen’s performances this season as he is set to claim the F1 drivers’ title in Qatar with a record number of Grand Prix remaining.
Yet unlike during the Mercedes era of dominance when more often than not their drivers came home in first and second place, much has been written about Sergio Perez inability to play wing man to Verstappen.
Verstappen wins constructors
Now with 400 points to his name, the Red Bull world champion could have won the constructors’ title for Mercedes on his own it was noted in Japan, given Mercedes, the next team behind Red Bull, have claimed just 305 points from both their drivers.
However, Red Bull have been haunted in previous years by a number two driver not pulling his weight which has cost them a shot at the constructors’ championship.
Most recently this occurred in 2021 when Verstappen fought a titanic battle with Hamilton and won the drivers’ crown, but the team lost out to Mercedes by 28 points.
That year while Verstappen finished with a score of 395.5 his team mate managed to rack up just 190 points. Perez finished in fourth 36 points behind Mercedes’ Valterri Bottas, a deficit that would have seen Mercedes prevented from winning their eight constructors’ title.
Marko full of Verstappen praise
History would now record Mercedes and Red Bull both with seven championships each.
For this reason the Perez remaining at Red Bull question again looms on the horizon. Were the championship to be much closer next season – which is almost inevitable – could the Mexican cost Red Bull another team victory?
With Max Verstappen following up a poor weekend in Singapore, Red Bull consultant Dr. Marko was quick to praise the return to the top of the podium by the Dutch driver.
“The way Max drove today was unbelievable. The start was not the best but he still controlled both McLarens and once he was in the lead he was controlling the race relatively easily,” remarked the 80 year old Austrian.
“Max was really motivated after Singapore and we have to say we still don’t know what really went wrong, but we proved that it was a one-off and we are looking forward for the rest of the season,” he explained.
“very dark day” for Perez
But Dr. Marko was in no mood to pander to Sergio Perez following his reckless driving which saw him crash into Hamilton on lap one and require a new front wing, relating him to the back of the field.
Then Checo attempting to climb back through the field tried a hopeless pass on the inside of the chicane and hit Kevin Magnussen square on. This again damaged the Red Bull car which could not continue despite running repairs.
“It was a very dark day”, said Marko regarding Sergio’s performance.
And Magnussen was scathing about Chico’s driving: “His teammate is cruising towards another title and he is fighting down the back with us,” said the Haas driver.
Lawson shows they way
By way of contrast Liam Lawson who has been drafted into the Red Bull sister car not only out qualified his senior team mate but finished ahead of him in the race too.
Yet Red Bull chose to announce the retention of Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo for next year, apparently leaving Lawson out in the cold for 2024.
“When you see that Perez is doing with that beautiful car, it’s almost criminal,” claimed the boss of the Dutch GP boss and former F1 driver Jan Lammers when speaking to NOS.
Lammers is also suspicious of the apparent abandonment of Liam Lawson suggesting, “something else is going on here”.
“Perez ready for retirement”
“I think Perez is really ready for retirement,” said Lammers. “I mean, how much fun is this for him?
“What we’re seeing is a total lack of drive, motivation, sharpness – everything, really. I think Red Bull could be preparing to put Lawson in that seat.”
Christian Horner claimed the only positive from Checo’s race was, “we managed to get out of today was not carrying a penalty through into the next race in Qatar.”
The Red Bull boss flippantly described Perez start: “He got sort of pin balled on the way down to Turn 1, that was unlucky for him,”
Marko: “completely done with Perez”
“He then passed Fernando on the way in under the safety car, picked up another penalty.”
Whilst Horner through a sop to Perez claiming he’d plaid his part in the team winning the championship this year, former driver Robert Doornbos isn’t so sure.
“Max has 400 points alone,” he told Ziggo Sport. “That’s already more than Mercedes has as a team.”
Despite Helmet Marko admitting Perez has a contract for next season, Doornbas retorted: “I think Helmut Marko is completely done with Perez.
Perez: “Just causing damage”
“He (Perez) has had his good moments, but that was a long time ago. Now he’s just causing damaging and making a fool of himself.”
Timo Glock who famously conceded a place to Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the 2008 Brazilian GP helping him win hist first F1 title, also believes Checo is now broken.
“Perez no longer has a chance against Verstappen. Little by little, his limits are being shown to him.That’s why he is so mentally down. Some of the mistakes he is making are incomprehensible given his experience.”
Almost all Formula One driver contracts have ‘escape clauses’ and given Perez big failure back in 2021 he will be required to score a certain percentage of points of his team mate.
Perez fails to achieve RBR targets
At present this sits at 55%. Rookie Oscar Piastri who is up against Norris – who many believe may be the next best driver to Verstappen – has scored 49% of Lando’s total to date.
Perez needs to do better to guarantee his seat for 2024, but shows no sign of beating Verstappen and his share of the points continues to diminish.
Whether Red Bull would place Lawson alongside Max is questionable, but their announcement of Ricciardo and Tsunoda was politically acceptable.
Should Perez leave for next season, Lawson would join AlphaTauri and Ricciardo return to Red Bull.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 25, 2023