‘Failing to inspire much confidence’: Sergio Perez is racing the clock to prove that he is worth being re-signed by Red Bull


It sounds harsh considering that he lies second in the drivers’ standings and only the equivalent of a victory behind the points leader, but Sergio Perez’s performances are failing to inspire much confidence in the final season of his current contract with Red Bull.

Nobody expects Perez to beat his team-mate, three-time World Champion Max Verstappen and he’s finished on the podium at four out of the five races this season. But the Mexican hasn’t come close to holding a candle to Verstappen over the past twelve months despite driving one of the most dominant cars in Formula One’s history.

Verstappen romped to another victory in China last weekend despite multiple safety car interventions diminishing his early advantage. Meanwhile, Perez was helpless to prevent McLaren’s Lando Norris from claiming second, even if his strategy was unfavourable.

When Verstappen retired in Australia, Perez was nowhere to be found after a tear-off strip from Fernando Alonso lodged itself under his car’s floor, preventing him from finishing higher than fifth. Yet he put himself in that position after incurring a three-place grid penalty for impeding Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying, which was followed by a poor start.

Going back to last season, Perez registered just one podium in the final eight races during which time Verstappen won all but one, and he ultimately scored under half of the Dutchman’s points tally.

Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Carlos Sainz is on the market after being squeezed out by Ferrari in favour of Lewis Hamilton from next season, and the Spaniard’s recent performances, particularly his victory in Australia following an appendectomy that ruled him out of the preceding race in Saudi Arabia, will be difficult for Red Bull to ignore.

Sainz would have been on Perez’s heels in the standings if he hadn’t missed that race and at almost five years the latter’s junior is producing more consistent results for the machinery at his disposal.

Beating Verstappen is another question, but if Sainz was able to maximise every opportunity, especially when Ferrari and McLaren are closing the gap, then he would be an instant upgrade.

The 2026 regulations reset carries the risk that Red Bull’s dominance will be neutralised and the team can’t pass up the opportunity to grab someone of Sainz’s calibre whilst he’s available, especially to lead the team in the instance that Verstappen departs.

Perez enjoyed a career reprieve when he was handed a lifeline by Red Bull for 2021 after being discarded by what is now Aston Martin just weeks after claiming his first victory, and he played a pivotal role in Verstappen’s first title.

Good racing ???? pic.twitter.com/K4WlcS4wtG

— Sergio Pérez (@SChecoPerez) April 23, 2024

His contributions have diminished over subsequent years, indeed Red Bull would still have won last year’s constructors’ title by 166 points if Verstappen was their only driver. Perez can consider himself fortunate to have been part of such a juggernaut for as long as he has.

Perez’s potential ace in the pack is ironically Verstappen, whose future was brought into question after allegations were levelled against Team Principal, Christian Horner. His unlikely departure as soon as next season would render Perez valuable from a continuity perspective.

Those concerns have subsided in recent weeks even though chatter around Verstappen and Mercedes lingers, but this almost certainly won’t occur until any earlier than 2026, if at all.

A likelier scenario is that Perez emerges as a stop-gap solution for Mercedes next season before either Verstappen arrives or Mercedes Junior Team member, Andrea Kimi Antonelli, is deemed ready for the responsibility.

Perez would be a good option for Sauber if Valtteri Bottas moves on and Sainz decides not to accept a reportedly big-money offer as it prepares to become Audi in 2026.

The Mexican made his debut with the team in 2011, and an impressive second season yielded several podiums, which led to his ill-fated stint at McLaren in 2013, replacing Lewis Hamilton.

Sergio Perez’s father, Antonio Perez, boldly claims that his son is the “most sought-after driver” in Formula 1. Despite ongoing contract talks with Red Bull, Antonio backs Sergio to remain on the F1 grid for the foreseeable future. Sergio’s current deal expires at the end of the… pic.twitter.com/9fUFqaKTx9

— This is Formula 1 (@ThisIsFormu1a1) April 25, 2024

The 34-year-old would also be a sound choice for Andretti if its bid to join the grid or assume control of an existing operation (Alpine) comes to pass, with Perez’s North American heritage and considerable experience key assets for a new team finding its’ feet.

Perez established a reputation following his McLaren tenure as the best of the rest in the midfield over his many years at Force India/Racing Point, which warranted the Red Bull opportunity. But after 14 seasons the next generation is coming through.

Mercedes dispensed with Valtteri Bottas’ services off the back of five constructors’ titles despite being closer to Hamilton than Perez has come to Verstappen, and though their slow demise has followed, there’s no room for sentiment in this sport.

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Red Bull can’t rest on its laurels forever and if Perez can’t provide them with cover on the rare days that Verstappen isn’t racing clear of everybody and see off opponents at a minimum, then it’s time for them to look further afield.

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