‘Concerning levels’: Red Bull told to replace Sergio Perez with Alex Albon

Sergio Perez is contracted to Red Bull until the end of 2024.

Mark Hughes and Ben Anderson, writers for the Race, have suggested that Sergio Perez’s decline of late has made Alex Albon look a better Red Bull team-mate to Max Verstappen.

Albon took over from Pierre Gasly at the Austrian side in 2019 after the Frenchman’s horrible experience in the first half of the season, and he managed to out-qualify the Dutchman once.

The Thai-Briton might even have ended up on the podium in Brazil had it not been for a misjudged move by Sir Lewis Hamilton, who arguably cost Albon victory by hitting him again in Austria in 2020.

The now 26-year-old was out-qualified at every race by Verstappen in the COVID-hit season, and his two podiums were not enough to keep him around, so he was dropped and replaced by Perez.

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The Mexican out-qualified Verstappen twice in his debut year with Red Bull, and he did what none of his three predecessors – including Daniil Kvyat – had done before him: win a race.

That victory came at Baku, and he added another to the tally in Monaco this year after out-qualifying the reigning champion for the second time.

The 32-year-old would qualify ahead again in Baku, but he has not done so since, partly due to the new floor specification seemingly working against him.

Perez has slipped back from his team-mate as a result, and two podiums in the last eight races since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix have made for a difficult run of form.

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In the opening eight rounds, Perez’s raw pace was around 1.5 tenths of a second slower than Verstappen’s, but that has increased to around seven tenths since then.

Hughes was critical of Perez’s recent displays compared to his team-mate. 

“Sergio Perez’s pace deficit to team-mate Max Verstappen is surely beginning to take on concerning levels,” he said in an article for the Race.

“At the past six races, the 0.637s average deficit to Verstappen equates to 0.757% in percentage terms and the trend is going in the wrong direction, with his Zandvoort and Monza deficits at over 1%. This is double Daniel Ricciardo’s deficit to Lando Norris at McLaren over the same period!

“A small part of this is explainable by a difference in floor specifications between the two Red Bulls at those races, but that has been put at ‘no more than 0.1s’ by Christian Horner. At Zandvoort, Perez was adrift by over 0.7s and at Monza by 0.9s.

“In May, when Perez signed his contract extension until the end of 2024, he was enjoying a very strong season and was just about to win the Monaco Grand Prix.

“But his form has taken a dive since a weight-saving programme allowed Red Bull to develop the RB18 more to Verstappen’s tastes, with a responsive front end.

“This programme began to bear fruit in Canada, the race after Baku where Perez had outqualified Verstappen for the second time in succession and led the first stint of the race. That was the last time Perez was anywhere near Verstappen’s pace.”

Anderson estimates that, had Red Bull shown more patience with Albon, he would be a better option that Perez right now.

“Perez has certainly achieved some better peak results than Albon since joining Red Bull – but he’s also had demonstrably better cars to work with,” he explained.

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“And Perez has also started 229 F1 races, whereas Albon has only done 53, having rejoined the grid with Williams – so there’s an argument to say Albon would likely have developed at a faster rate than Perez, and potentially got closer to Verstappen, had Red Bull chosen to keep faith.”

Perez is 125 points adrift of Verstappen in the Drivers’ Standings, although he and his team-mate are set to guide the Milton Keynes-based team to their fifth constructors’ success.

Red Bull are 139 points clear of the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.