Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has admitted that the Austrians “can’t afford” for Sergio Perez to continue struggling, with all of their rivals having two drivers performing at a similar level.
With the exception of the opening five rounds where Perez really took the fight to Max Verstappen, the Mexican has been considerably slower than the Dutchman, who sealed his third Drivers’ Championship last weekend at the Qatar Grand Prix.
Whilst Verstappen cruised to a 14th win of the season, Perez was fighting for just a single point.
The Mexican could only salvage P10 at the Lusail International Circuit, marking his first top-10 finish since the Italian Grand Prix.
Given that he has the best car on the grid, there is no arguing that Perez isn’t performing to the level he should be, something which is throwing further doubt over whether he’ll even make it to the end of 2024 with Red Bull.
If Perez loses second in the Drivers’ Championship, it’d be a massive disappointment to Red Bull, who have never claimed a 1-2 in the standings before.
Horner believes that the Mexican is possibly putting too much “pressure on himself” given just how good the RB19 is, with it now being a race against time to get him back to his “best form”.
“I think with a car like we have, he’s probably putting that pressure on himself,” said Horner, as reported by Motorsport.com.
“The most important thing for us is winning both [drivers’ and teams’] championships. We’ve done that.
“And then, what’s the next best thing after that would be to have both your drivers first and second.
“You can see Mercedes have a pair, McLaren have a pair, Ferrari have a pair that are quite tight between the respective drivers.
“I think we’ve had that at the earlier point in the year. But as the season has gone on it’s become more variant.
“We just need to get Checo back to the best form that he’s capable of.”
With McLaren in particular having made huge gains, Horner knows that Red Bull need both drivers to be performing well ahead of 2024.
If Perez’s struggles continue into next season, then the Austrians could find themselves in a three of four-way fight for the Constructors’ Championship, a situation they’d like to avoid.
“The frustration is that we know what Checo has been capable of doing,” Horner stressed.
“Of course, last year and this year, he’s contributed significantly to the constructors’ championship. We desperately want him to find that form and as a team; we need him to.
“We can’t afford to have a big split because if, as you would expect, the grid continues to concertina next year, we need both drivers delivering at the top of the game.”