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Red Bull Might Have Played It Too Safe By Keeping Sergio Perez

There are doubts over the Milton Keynes team’s future as Red Bull and Sergio Perez continue their partnership with the Mexican signing a contract extension.

Earlier this week, Red Bull Racing announced they reached a new deal with Sergio Perez. Perez will continue as a Red Bull driver through 2026.

The Mexican’s current deal, originally signed in 2022, is set to expire at the end of this season. With Perez’s poor performances in the past year, there were doubts over his future in the Milton Keynes team. Furthermore, when Daniel Ricciardo rejoined the Formula 1 grid in 2023 under Red Bull as an Alpha Tauri driver, there were speculations that the team intended to replace the Mexican in their front-running team.

All doubts have been silenced now, as Sergio Perez has put pen to paper, aiming to continue his Red Bull career. However, new doubts arose when the announcement came in. There are questions as to whether Red Bull have made the right decision.

Achievements before Red Bull

Sergio Perez has been an F1 driver since 2011. He drove for the Sauber team in his first two years. Having not driven for a top team until he joined Red Bull, he may never been considered a top driver. However, he was one that often received high praise, especially right before he joined Red Bull.

In his second season at Sauber, he outscored his teammate and finished P10 in the Drivers’ Championship. He then moved to McLaren where he spent only one year, as a replacement for Lewis Hamilton who had moved to Mercedes. In a declining team, he finished P11, two positions below teammate Jenson Button.

Perez then moved to Force India in 2014, where he would stay for 7 years. In his first year, he was on the podium once and finished in the points in all but three races. It was another P10 for the Mexican driver in the Championship standings. He outperformed his teammate Nico Hulkenberg in the next season, earned another podium finish and was P9 in the Drivers’ Championship.

For his next years at Force India/Racing Point (now Aston Martin), he continued outperforming his teammates – Hulkenburg in 2016, Esteban Ocon in 2017 and 2018, and Lance Stroll in 2019 and 2020. In 2016 and 2020, he was on the podium twice. He was also on the podium once in 2018.

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Sergio Perez saw his dream come true when his maiden win came at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. That same season, he was P4 in the Drivers’ Championship, whilst his teammate Stroll was P11.

The chance of a lifetime and a decent debut

Despite having such an incredible 2020 season which earned him high praise, the Mexican driver was left without a seat for the 2021 season. After Ferrari announced that they would be replacing Sebastian Vettel with Carlos Sainz, another unexpected announcement on the grid followed. Racing Point (formerly Force India and currently Aston Martin) announced that they would sign Vettel. This left their best-performing driver Perez unaccounted for in the 2021 season.

Perez spent a couple of weeks ‘unemployed’, his future not decided yet. The Red Bull seat however was open. The Milton Keynes team had been seemingly playing a game of musical chairs with Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly for the second Red Bull seat for two seasons. After weeks of it looking like he would be without a 2021 drive, Red Bull announced that they were signing Sergio Perez to partner Max Verstappen.

The Mexican, driving for a top team for the first time in his career proved to be a good signing. He became a 2-time race winner when he won the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Although not quite on par with Verstappen, he provided good support for the Dutchman. Verstappen was in a title fight with Mercedes drive Lewis Hamilton all season long. And whenever needed, Perez put up a tough fight against the Brit to help his teammate.

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Perez was P4 in the Drivers’ Championship in his first season as a Red Bull driver.

A sudden fall in form

In 2022, he had a slightly better season and was P3 in the Drivers’ Championship.

On an upward trajectory, Perez started the 2023 season quite strong. He outqualified Verstappen in 2 of the 5 first races and won 2 races as well – the Saudia Arabian and Azerbaijan GPs. The Mexican was high in confidence. So much so, that he claimed that he had a good shot at winning the 2023 title against his teammate.

“I am fighting for it. But I also know it’s a long road ahead.” – Sergio Perez on the championship after winning the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

In response to the Mexican’s self-confident remarks, Verstappen and Horner did not seem to be convinced and pinned his success at the time on street circuit preference.

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In the Grand Prix following Perez’s wins and bold projections, his performance dropped off, massively. He was P20 after qualifying at Monaco and finished the race in P16. As Monaco is a difficult track to make up places in a race after qualifying poorly, Perez would instead have a lot to prove at the next race.

In Spain however, he failed to make it to Q3, only a P11 from the Mexican. In the three races after Spain, Perez was unable to get to Q3 yet again, twice this time, and once, he failed to make it out of Q1. He failed to make it into Q3 later in the season in Singapore, Qatar and Las Vegas.

After Azerbaijan, he only managed three top 5 qualifying times. He therefore spent a large majority of his races climbing his way up the grid as his teammate claimed victory with ease in all but one race.

As for the 2024 season, Perez has had his worst start to a season since joining Red Bull. Despite finishing P2 in the first two races of the season, he was 22 seconds behind Verstappen in the first, and 13 seconds behind in the second. In Australia where Max had a DNF (Did Not Finish), Perez was only P5, a grid slot up from where he started the race.

At Suzuka, Checo got his first front-row start of the season. He finished the race in P2, but 12 seconds behind his teammate. He got another front-row start in China, but finished in P3, 19 seconds behind race winner Verstappen. And while his teammate got pole in Miami, Perez was only good enough for P4, where he finished the race too.

In the last two races this season Perez has had poor qualifying results. He failed to make it out of Q2 in Imola with a P11. He finished the race in P8, 54 seconds behind his teammate who won. As for Monaco, he had an even more shocking result. His fastest lap was only good enough for P18. But to his luck – well, sort of – with Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen disqualified for technical non-compliance, Perez was bumped up two places, into P16. Perez did not even get the chance to try and climb his way up the grid this time. He was involved in an incident with both Haas drivers, all three of them retiring on lap 1.

“He has had his worst season ever at Red Bull. Normally he would have an amazing first few races. But he hasn’t even had that this year. So, he’s collapsed on top of that! He was already behind Max at the start of the season and now he’s dropped another half a second. That is ten cars on the grid. I don’t know what is going on.” – Jacques Villenueve on Sergio Perez’s form, speaking to Best Online Poker Sites.

What does this mean for Red Bull?

While Red Bull have a strong driver in Max Verstappen, they can rest assured that he will fight for the Drivers’ Championship when given the right car. However, as for the Constructors’ Championship title, things look a little tricky.

In 2021, Mercedes won the Constructors’ title. In 2022, Red Bull won the title for the first time since 2013, with Verstappen earning 59.8% of their points. As for 2023, Verstappen earned 66.8% of Red Bull’s points to win them the title. In fact, Max Verstappen’s individual points would have still been enough for Red Bull to win the title. This is because the Dutchman had 575 points to his name. That was 166 more points than Mercedes’ – runners up – Championship points.

It does not go without saying that Perez has had a number of good performances under Red Bull. He has won 5 races in the team, had 3 pole positions and 29 podium finishes. However, he has not been close enough to Verstappen. While that might have worked when Red Bull had the most dominant period ever in F1 history with a dominant car, the competition is closing in.

As it stands, McLaren and Ferrari have more or less closed the gap to Red Bull and won 3 of 8 races so far this season. Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz are all above Sergio Perez in the Championship standings. This could be detrimental to Red Bull’s fight to defend the Constructors’ title should Perez continue to perform poorly.

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And now with Perez having signed a contract extension keeping him at Red Bull for at least the next two years, it could be concerning for the 6-time champions. Unless Perez picks up his form again, it will be difficult for Red Bull to win more Constructors’ titles, especially if the competition continues to thicken.

Continuous poor performances from Perez could be detrimental to Verstappen’s title charge as well. Ferrari have both Leclerc and Sainz performing highly, pushing each other and supporting each other. The same can be said for McLaren who have both Norris and Piastri. They too both perform highly and recently, better than Perez.


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