Sergio Perez is the last threat to Max Verstappen

Sergio Perez is set to be axed by Red Bull at the end of 2023, with several replacements lying in wait for his seat.

Sergio Perez is the only driver currently stopping Max Verstappen from claiming a third consecutive Drivers’ Championship, although that’s expected to change this weekend at the returning Qatar Grand Prix.

The Lusail International Circuit returns this weekend having not featured since 2021, after Formula 1 gave the venue permission to skip hosting a race in 2022, so that the nation could continue preparing for the FIFA World Cup which was held in Qatar.

At the inaugural Qatar GP in 2021, Verstappen had to settle for second behind Lewis Hamilton, although the Dutchman is very much the favourite to win this weekend.

However, the 26-year-old doesn’t even need to win to claim the crown once again, with a P6 in Saturday’s sprint race being enough for the title.

Want to work in Formula 1? Browse the latest F1 job vacancies

P6 in Saturday’s sprint race will secure Verstappen the crown if Perez wins Saturday’s event, something which isn’t expected given his recent struggles.

Like Verstappen, Perez endured a woeful Singapore Grand Prix, although unlike his team-mate, he failed to respond at the recent Japanese Grand Prix.

Verstappen won in Japan to secure Red Bull back-to-back Constructors’ Championships, whilst Perez retired twice in bizarre circumstances.

He initially retired following contact with Kevin Magnussen, before being re-entered into the race to serve a five-second time penalty.

Article continues below

Once that’d been served, Red Bull retired him from the race once again.

Perez sits 177 points behind Verstappen with 180 points available, making it a matter of when rather than if the Dutchman will win the championship.

To keep his near-impossible title chances alive, Perez must out-score Verstappen by 32 points in Qatar, something he’s never achieved.

He realistically needs to win the sprint on Saturday and the main race on Sunday and hope that the championship leader endures a horrific race.

Considering that the Dutchman hasn’t retired from a single race this year, that’s extremely unlikely to happen.

READ: Nico Hulkenberg makes massive prediction about F1 driver market

With 13 wins from 16 races, Verstappen undoubtedly deserves the championship, with his consistency having been unrivalled.

Perez just hasn’t been able to take the fight to his team-mate since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, which the Mexican won to make it two wins from the opening four races.

Only a miracle will keep Checo in the title fight this weekend.