In the high-speed world of Formula One, where tenths of a second can mean the difference between triumph and disappointment, Sergio Perez’s performance for Red Bull Racing in 2023 has left many analysts and fans perplexed.
A season that began with so much promise for the Mexican driver has gradually devolved into a series of underwhelming performances, making his position at one of F1’s premier teams a hot topic of discussion.
Verstappen ‘one man team’
Affectionately known as “Checo” to his legion of fans, Perez joined Red Bull with a reputation as a tenacious driver, capable of getting the most out of his machinery and consistently delivering strong results. The motorsport community expected his move to Red Bull to form a formidable partnership alongside Max Verstappen, presenting a two-pronged challenge to their rivals. However, the reality of the 2023 season has been very different.
To put things in context, Verstappen’s performances this year have further cemented his place among F1’s elite. Driving a car hailed by many as the best of the season, the Dutchman has been racking up points, podiums and victories, leaving Perez in his wake. The discrepancy between the two teammates has become a glaring issue, with Perez accumulating a significant points deficit to Verstappen.
RB19 built around Verstappen?
Several factors could be behind Perez’s struggles. One much-discussed issue has been his ability to adapt to the car’s handling characteristics. Every F1 car has its own quirks and it’s no secret that Red Bull have often designed their cars with Verstappen’s driving style in mind. This could result in a car that doesn’t quite suit Perez’s preferences, making it difficult for him to get the most out of it. However, the jury is out on this if Lando Norris is to be believed (more on that story later).
Further, the internal dynamics of a team can have a profound effect on a driver’s confidence and performance. While Red Bull have been outwardly supportive of Perez throughout the season, the psychological pressure of being consistently outperformed by a teammate, coupled with the weight of external expectations, can be a heavy burden to bear.
Red Bull ‘outwardly support’ Perez
It’s important to note, however, that the story of this season is not just about Perez’s struggles. The F1 grid is a fiercely competitive place, and while Perez may be underperforming relative to his team-mate, he’s still up against the best drivers in the world every race weekend.
The key question for Red Bull Racing and Sergio Perez in 2023 is whether they can rediscover the synergy and level of performance that made their partnership so enticing in the first place. Only time will tell if “Checo” can turn his fortunes around and re-establish himself as a formidable force within the Red Bull stable.
Meanwhile, rumours are rife that Red Bull are sensibly not hedging their bets that Perez will recover his form, and have lined up his direct replacement.
Established F1 favourite Daniel Ricciardo is tipped for a return to Red Bull Racing in 2024. The Australian’s association with the team dates back to his time with the team as a junior until he left for Renault in 2018.
In a surprise move this season, Ricciardo made a comeback by joining the ranks of Red Bull’s sister team, AlphaTauri for evaluation. The decision came after he replaced Nyck de Vries, who was struggling with performance issues.
Although a recent injury was a temporary setback for the Australian, he’s firmly rooted in AlphaTauri’s plans for next season.
Insider states Ricciardo is first choice for midseason switch
Leading F1 journalist Lawrence Barretto recently spoke to F1.com about Sergio Perez’s situation at Red Bull.
He stated, “The underperformance is obvious. Perez, in one of the most powerful cars, is 177 points behind his team-mate Max Verstappen”.
Such a significant gap in what many consider to be the best car on the grid is hard to ignore.
Barretto added: “Inside sources strongly suggest that should Perez be replaced, either mid-season or at its peak in 2024, Ricciardo appears to be the first choice for Red Bull”
To put things in perspective, Perez is under increasing pressure despite winning two races in 2023. His two victories seem to be overshadowed by a consistent performance gap to Verstappen, and Ricciardo’s presence in the peripheral vision of Red Bull’s management doesn’t help.
Having left McLaren last season, Ricciardo’s intention to find his way back to a Red Bull seat was made clear with his return to F1. With Perez’s contract up after the 2024 season, Red Bull are at a crossroads. Do they continue with the Verstappen-Perez partnership, which has had its ups and downs? Or do they bring Australian dynamo Ricciardo back into the mix?
Only time will tell, but for now the rumour mill continues to churn, with fans eagerly awaiting the next big development.
MORE F1 NEWS: SKY TV Formula One future in doubt
Bernie Ecclestone was in many ways a visionary as he galvanised the Formula One teams to form a collective back known as the Formula One Teams Association (FOCA) back in 1974.
As the Brabham owner he realised the teams needed to stop fighting each other and band together if they were to receive an improved financial remuneration from the various commercial entities making some money from…READ MORE ON THIS STORY