Helmut Marko says Red Bull will start running Nico Hulkenberg amid Sergio Perez’s woes

Sergio Perez has continued to struggle at Red Bull, and the Mexican is on the chopping block.

In a playful, yet telling, remark, Red Bull’s top executive, Helmut Marko, jokingly hinted at the possibility of having two different drivers for the Belgian Grand Prix. 

Marko teased that they could have Nico Hulkenberg take the wheel for qualifying and then let Sergio Perez handle the race, fuelling rumours linking the German driver to a seat with the reigning F1 champions.

Speaking to Kleine Zeitung, Marko quipped, “Let’s put it this way. We’ll get him (Hulkenberg) for qualifying, and then Perez will drive the race.” 

While Marko’s comment may have been light-hearted, it underscores the team’s growing concerns about Perez’s recent struggles in qualifying.

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The Mexican driver has faced challenges in reaching the final Q3 shootout in the five races leading up to the Hungarian Grand Prix. 

Despite having one of the best cars on the grid, Perez has also been eliminated from Q1 on three occasions. 

Marko’s playful statement hints at the team’s awareness of this issue and their desire to find a resolution.

Ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Marko was vocal about Perez’s need to improve his qualifying performances to maintain his position with Red Bull. 

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However, after Perez managed to qualify in P9 and secure a podium finish with a third-place result, Marko seemed to defend his driver. 

He stated to OE24, “He is clearly improving after fighting his way from ninth on the grid to third in Hungary. 

“Finally, he made it to Q3 again. You can see an upward trend.”

The pressure on Perez intensified further when Daniel Ricciardo was promoted to a race seat at AlphaTauri, making it clear that he aims to return to Red Bull, where he previously drove before parting ways five years ago.

However, Perez appears undeterred by the developments and remains focused on his performance and enjoyment of the sport. 

He confidently asserted, “I’ve been in F1 for 13 years, and I’ve seen it all. 

“Not worried about any of that. I’m mainly focused on getting my season on track and making sure I keep enjoying this. 

“I have full support from Helmut and Christian. 

“The whole team is fully backing me, and they know what I can do. 

“They know my potential, and they are fully behind me.”

Meanwhile, Hulkenberg has dispelled rumours of a potential move to partner Max Verstappen at Red Bull. 

Instead, the German driver aims to secure a contract extension with Haas, planning to stay with the American squad beyond 2024. 

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He expressed his commitment to the team’s turnaround efforts, despite the challenges they may face on race days.

Perez has another chance at redemption in Belgium this weekend, as he lines up in P2 on Sunday after his teammate suffered a grid penalty.

The Mexican will need to pass Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, as well as holding off the threat of Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz, who will be hot on the Red Bull driver’s heels.