Fresh ‘very dark’ shadow casts doubt on Perez’s future

While Max Verstappen revelled in his comeback to top form and Red Bull rejoiced in clinching the 2023 constructors’ championship on Sunday, an ominous shadow loomed over Sergio Perez.

For Verstappen, after his disappointing showing in Singapore, his triumph in Suzuka marked a revitalisation of his Formula 1 dominance.

“I wanted to give an answer after Singapore,” the Dutchman declared on Sunday. “I’d been working on it for a week.”

However, for his Mexican colleague Perez, “It was a very dark day,” noted Red Bull team consultant Dr Helmut Marko.

One competitor not pleased with Perez’s performance at Suzuka was Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.

“His teammate is smoothly heading for another championship, and he’s scrapping at the rear with us,” the Dane remarked.

It’s not just the awkward errors and penalties that are concerning; it’s also becoming increasingly evident that, with Liam Lawson currently excluded from a Red Bull-affiliated Formula 1 ride, the question over Perez’s outright speed remains glaring.

“Seeing what Perez is doing with that magnificent car is almost a crime,” said Dutch GP chief and former F1 driver Jan Lammers, speaking to NOS.

After Alpha Tauri confirmed at Suzuka that Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda will be staying next season, Lammers thinks “there is something else going on here.”

“I think Perez is really ready for retirement,” said Lammers. “I mean, how much fun is this for him?

“What we’re witnessing is a complete absence of determination, enthusiasm, focus—pretty much everything. Red Bull may well be thinking of putting Lawson in that cockpit.”

Christian Horner, the head of Red Bull, did credit Perez’s “contribution” to the team’s early capture of the constructors’ championship this year. Yet, former team racer Robert Doornbos isn’t convinced.

“Max has 400 points alone,” he told Ziggo Sport. “That’s already more than Mercedes has as a team.”

Pressed on the issue of Perez’s contract late on Sunday, Marko confirmed there is indeed a contract in effect.

However, Doornbos added: “I believe Helmut Marko has entirely lost patience with Perez.

“He (Perez) had his moments, but those are far behind him. Now he’s simply causing harm and embarrassing himself.”

Another ex-F1 driver, Timo Glock, told Sky Deutschland: “Perez stands no 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.”

Fascinatingly, Marko does not deny that – at the very least – Red Bull is now clearly looking to the future.

“Both Daniel and Checo are over 30. So it depends on what their ideas are, how long do they want to drive? And we have to be prepared for that,” he said.

“And that is the case with Lawson.”