Red Bull adviser Dr Helmut Marko has confirmed that Sergio Perez had already put pen to paper on a contract extension before the Monaco Grand Prix.
Perez took advantage of a terrible afternoon for Ferrari in Monaco to win from third on the grid, and he out-performed team-mate Max Verstappen in every session bar one in the Principality, confirming his title credentials in 2022.
After the chequered flag, he was walking back to the Red Bull energy station with team principal Christian Horner when he turned to the 48-year-old and said “I signed too early” with a smile.
It led to speculation that he had indeed signed a contract extension, and the news was confirmed shortly after the weekend.
Dr Marko revealed that the deal was signed on the Friday of the race weekend in Monte Carlo.
“On the Friday before the Monaco Grand Prix, we gave him a contract extension,” he said.
“He was extra motivated after this. It’s very nice to have this duo of drivers. We’ve already recorded five wins this year.”
Verstappen was out-qualified for the second time this season by Perez, but he too was able to take advantage of Charles Leclerc’s downfall from pole due to Ferrari’s errors as he finished third.
It all means that Perez has closed the gap to his team-mate to 15 points, but the Dutchman now leads second-placed Leclerc by nine.
The Scuderia are still searching for a bounce back from Red Bull’s form as they seek their first win in five rounds next weekend in Baku, so the Austrian maintains that the pressure is with the Italian side.
“Max remains calm, he has enough self-confidence. They [Ferrari] are under pressure,” added Dr Marko.
“Charles Leclerc has had a hard time with that and mistakes are made, but that’s racing. In Monaco, we forced Ferrari to react to our pit-stop strategy. They reacted wrong.”
With now three-time race winner Perez 15 points off the championship lead, Le Mans winner and former Formula 1 driver Allan McNish recently observed that Horner now has the luxury of both drivers battling for wins and, ultimately, the grandest prize in motorsport.
“Sergio drove a fantastic race,” he told the F1 Nation podcast.
“It brings him [to within] 15 points of the lead of the World Championship. It certainly does give Christian Horner a bit of a positive headache.
“I would say it’s a luxurious problem to have – there are a lot of teams who would like to be in that position.”
Red Bull extended their lead in the Constructors’ Champion over Ferrari to 36 points with their victory in Monaco, surely making the Azerbaijan Grand Prix next time out a must-win for the Scuderia.