Sergio Perez’s 2024 Red Bull contract could be on the line after disappointing Qatar GP. Sergio Perez, the veteran Mexican Formula One driver, finds himself in a precarious situation with Red Bull Racing after an uninspiring performance at the Qatar Grand Prix.
With a contract that runs until 2024, the team and its bosses are now sending strong signals that they may be considering alternative options for their driver line-up.
Tough weekend in Qatar
Perez’s disappointing weekend in Qatar began with a 13th-place qualifying result, followed by a crash in Saturday’s sprint race that effectively handed teammate Max Verstappen a third consecutive drivers’ title.
Things didn’t get any better on Sunday, with Perez scoring just one point as a result of several penalties for breaking track restrictions. The result puts his current second place in the Drivers’ Championship under serious threat, especially with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton lurking just 30 points behind with five races to go.
Horner warns of ‘serious talks’
Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner hinted that serious talks were in order.
“We need to talk to him (Perez) to understand what happened,” Horner said in a post-race interview.
“He had a tough race and a very tough weekend and we will continue to give him our full support. He’s still second in the drivers’ standings, but he urgently needs to get back into shape.”
Perez, for his part, cited last-minute track changes and the introduction of new kerbs as part of the problem.
“For me, it was difficult to judge where exactly the limits of the track were…”
“It all seems like a joke, making these changes at the last minute,” he said, visibly frustrated. “I’m disappointed that I let my team down; it was a bad weekend.”
Contract until 2024, but with caveats
Although Perez has an existing contract with Red Bull until 2024, it is becoming increasingly clear that the deal may not be as rock solid as it appears. Dr Helmut Marko, the influential advisor to the Red Bull Racing Team, has voiced his concerns in no uncertain terms.
Speaking to Sky Deutschland, he said: “He [Perez] needs to get out of this negative spiral. Sure, there have been some fast laps, but what’s the point if you’re getting penalties all the time?”
Perez should be justifiably concerned about his future with the team, say industry pundits. As 2016 F1 World Champion Nico Rosberg pointed out, “If there was a suitable alternative available right now, Red Bull would probably replace him. It’s that extreme.”
Rosberg also touched on the dilemma facing Red Bull: replacing Perez isn’t easy because the potential alternatives, such as Liam Lawson or even Daniel Ricciardo, come with their own risks.
Uncertain road ahead
Adding fuel to the fire, Marko underlined the urgency of the situation when he told ORF, the Austrian media outlet: “The gap is just too big at the moment. Even his second place in the championship is at risk,”
Asked about the status of Perez’s 2024 contract, Marko added: “We generally try to honour existing contracts, but it’s up to him [Perez] to prove that he deserves it.”
Marko also hinted that Red Bull’s junior team, Alpha Tauri, have viable alternatives, mentioning Yuki Tsunoda as well as Lawson and Ricciardo. “Let’s see how things develop. But we expect Checo to rediscover his old form,” Marko concludes, leaving the door open to all possibilities.
As the F1 season approaches its climax, Perez finds himself at a crossroads. Not only does the Mexican need to regain his form quickly, but he must also navigate the internal politics and pressure of a team that is clearly questioning his future contributions.
With several races left on the calendar, Perez has little time to turn things around and secure his position at Red Bull Racing – and potentially in Formula One.
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