Sergio Perez’s continuity at Red Bull and his presence in Formula 1 seem more precarious after a less than stellar performance, especially in Qatar.
The unfortunate Saturday sprint race incident involving the out-of-sync Mexican effectively locked in teammate Max Verstappen’s third consecutive drivers’ title.
Having qualified at an unimpressive 13th, Perez garnered only a solitary point in the main Sunday race due to consistent overstepping of ‘track limits’.
This now endangers his second spot in the drivers’ championship, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton trailing only 30 points behind Perez with a mere five races remaining.
“I think we need to talk to him (Perez) to understand what happened,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner remarked subsequently.
Perez clarified: “For me it was difficult to judge where exactly the limits of the track were.
“To me, it all seems like a joke to come out and modify everything at the last minute like this,” he stated, pointing to the last-minute track adjustments due to kerb complications.
Further, Perez commented: “It has been a frustrating race. I am very disappointed for having failed my team. It was a poor weekend.”
Horner responded: “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.”
Though Perez, aged 33, holds a contract for 2024, it’s evident that Red Bull hasn’t entirely dismissed potential rearrangements.
“He has to get out of this negative spiral,” Dr Helmut Marko expressed to Sky Deutschland. “There were fast laps in between, but it doesn’t help with all these penalties.”
Prominent analysts opine that Perez should be on alert regarding his position.
“I think if an alternative were on the market now, he would be replaced,” 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg weighed in. “But he’s too far away right now. It’s extreme.”
Rosberg added, the potential replacements for Perez might not be primed for the task.
“You can’t just put Liam Lawson in the Red Bull now, because who knows how that would go. That would be too high a risk,” the German remarked.
“Even Daniel (Ricciardo) would be a certain risk because we haven’t seen much of him yet.”
However, Red Bull’s reputed driver overseer Marko seems to be intensifying the scrutiny on Perez.
“The gap is simply too big at the moment, because second place in the world championship is also at risk now,” he told ORF.
Regarding Perez’s 2024 agreement, Marko noted: “In general we want to implement the contractual situation, which lasts until 2024. And that’s entirely up to him now.
“But then we have three relatively good drivers in Alpha Tauri,” the 80-year-old warned, also referring to Yuki Tsunoda as well as Lawson and Ricciardo.
“Let’s see how this develops further. But we assume that Checo will find his old strength again.”