The big talking point following the Formula One Mexican Grand Prix is whether Sergio Perez has hammered in the final nail into his own Red Bull coffin. Christian Horner and the team have firmly insisted throughout their Mexican drivers’ troubles this year that he has a contract for 2024.
Team boss Christian Horner has gone even further claiming the team “fully expect him” to be in the car for 2024, though there has always been the element of doubt given the brutal nature of Formula One driver decisions. Daniel Ricciardo had a year left on his McLaren contract and was still ejected a year early along with between £12-15m to compensate him for any hurt feelings.
Red Bull ruthless track record with drivers
Red Bull Racing have been the most ruthless of all the modern F1 terms when it comes to sacking drivers. Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly can testify to being demoted to the system team mid season and Alex Albon given just over a year to prove himself against Vertsappen before being sidelined.
Of course the recruitment of Daniel Ricciardo by Red Bull Racing was a barely hidden threat to Checo that in the wings is an eight times Grand Prix winner should the Mexican stumble or fall. And it felt as though the Formula One gods were moving the pieces around the board in Mexico City as Perez made a catastrophic error of judgement crashing out at turn one just after lights out.
Meanwhile golden boy Daniel Ricciardo – who had qualified his Alpha Tauri which has looked slow all seasons – a remarkable fourth, finished the race in seventh and launched the Faenza based team from the bottom of the championship to eight in one fell swoop.
On that moment Ricciardo has more than repaid Red Bull’s confidence in him as the place changes would result at the season end in an additional $20m prize money for the team.
Ricciardo fobs off media
Speaking ahead of these weekend’s Sau Paulo Grand Prix, the Aussie played down any immediate upgrade to Red Bull Racing.
“All the stuff around my contract next year has been related to AlphaTauri,” said Ricciardo. “I would say that’s honestly as far as that goes, I think.
“For me personally, having a weekend like Mexico is just definitely good for the soul and also for the team. I haven’t been here long but for them to be 10th in the constructors’ and to jump two places in the space of two weekends was huge.
“That kind of creates a very happy atmosphere around everyone. So that’s, yeah, kind of happy doing that. And trying to just keep charging on where I am.”
Red Bull rift in Brazil
Last season’s Grand Prix in Brazil saw the rift between Verstappen and Perez widen following the Mexican’s suggestion at the previous weekend the team and Max allow him to win his home race.
The with a handful of laps to go in Sau Paulo, Red Bull asked Verstappen to allow Checo through in his hunt for second place in the drivers’ championship. Max was incandescent on the radio telling the team he had expressed his decision on that request already.
Further he went public over team radio demanding, “Don’t ask me that ever again.”
Of course Sergio lost out in the final count to Charles Leclerc and Red Bull have yet to claim a 1-2 in the driver standings.
Verstappen suggests 2024 team mate undecided
Lewis Hamilton last time out closed the gap to Perez by 19 points with his P2 finish and fastest lap at the Mexico City Grand Prix – and stands now just 20 points behind the Red Bull driver.
Yet more importantly for Sergio, it appears the die is cast over his future as a Red Bull driver as Max Verstappen suggests before the upcoming race in Brazil the team are as yet ‘undecided.’
“I find it a bit unfair to now sit here and say, who I would prefer as a team-mate or whatever. I mean, they have been great team-mates, and it’s not up to me at the end of the day to to make these kinds of decisions because I’m very focused on my own performance.
“If it’s Checo next year, then you know, great. I have had a great working relationship with him, but also personally, I think he’s a great guy. And if it’s Daniel then also we will get along fine and we have a great time.
“F1 can be a tough sport and, you know, you’re asking these kinds of questions, but maybe also nothing happens right, so we’ll see.”
Horner denies Cherco rumours AGAIN
Of course Verstappen has tried his best to say nothing and leave the discussion in a neutral fashion, however the world champion has either intentionally or not contradicted Christian Horner’s repeated assertions.
A slightly irritated Christian Horner faced the media on Mexico when asked about whether Checo’s position was safe for 2024 if he failed to claim P2 in the drivers’ championship.
“People always have newspapers to fill,” said Horner.
“There’s never been a discussion about it, we’re focused on getting that 1-2, something we’ve never had as a team before, and hopefully, we can get it this year. “There is no premise that if Checo doesn’t finish second he won’t be there next year.”
Perez must do better
Of course the current dominance of Max Verstappen makes the issue of who drives alongside him almost irrelevant. In the cold light if Perez’s experience up against Verstappen, Alex Albon looks with hindsight as though he faired pretty well as Max former team mate.
Yet if things become tight and Red Bull need more than 30% of their total points coming from the second driver, them Perez will be gone in a heartbeat.
Clearly, Max believes the decision on who drives with him at Red Bull for 2024 is not yet settled and it may be as certain reports have suggested there is pressure on Checo to retire rather than face the sack.