Sergio Perez announced on Wednesday that he will leave Racing Point at the end of the 2020 Formula One season, after weeks of speculation about his future at the team.
But, where does this leave Perez?
The Mexican made his Formula One debut almost a decade ago with Sauber, and he has said he is planning on continuing his career in F1, but this is contingent on him “finding a project that motivates me to continue giving my 100 percent on each lap.”
Could Perez Join Red Bull?
Of the three big teams, Red Bull is the only one that might realistically change its driver line-up for 2021, with Ferrari already confirming Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, and Mercedes set to retain Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
It’s not certain that Red Bull will change its driver pairing next year, but with Alex Albon continuing to underperform, the team is surely considering its options to see if there’s a better driver on the market.
The team recently said it has “no intention” of replacing Alex Albon with AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly – who took his first F1 victory at last weekend’s Italian Grand Prix – this season, but he does appear to be favourite for the second Red Bull seat next year if Albon doesn’t get closer to Max Verstappen.
However, Red Bull may decide to demote Albon to the sister team (as Daniil Kvyat’s replacement) and look outside of their own pool of talent for a driver to support Verstappen.
Perez could be the perfect choice, with several years of F1 experience under his belt and many strong performances to speak of.
It would unquestionably be a gamble, but there aren’t many drivers of Perez’s calibre available for 2021, with the exception of Nico Hulkenberg.
Vettel is another option – and a reunion with Red Bull would certainly be interesting to see – but news of Perez leaving Racing Point all but confirms that the four-time World Champion will be joining them at the end of the season.
Ultimately, Red Bull’s involvement in Formula One – just like all of its other teams in motorsport and beyond – is part of its unique and highly successful global marketing strategy.
Because of this, Perez is likely to be looked upon more favourable than Hulkenberg by Red Bull, as he has a huge fanbase in Mexico and broader South America which the energy drinks manufacturer could leverage to expand in that market.
What About Haas Or Williams?
A move to Haas or Williams is much more realistic, though there’s still competition which Perez has to contend with.
Last month, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said he is open to the idea of bringing on two new drivers for 2021 – and there’s a good chance Sergio Perez could be one of them.
In addition to talent and experience, the highly rated Mexican, who has been backed by billionaire Carlos Slim throughout his career, would almost certainly bring sponsorship dollars with him wherever he moves next.
This is a strong bargaining chip for Perez and gives him the upper hand over other drivers in contention for a drive at Haas, including existing drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, and Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick.
Williams are another team which could benefit from the financial support that would come with Perez.
They already have a “pay driver” in Nicholas Latifi, but Perez’s backers can match the contribution of his sponsors.
And, because of Perez’s vast F1 experience and talent, there’s every chance that Williams would be open to replacing Latifi with him.
But, Perez arguably implied in his statement that he is only interested in joining a relatively competitive outfit – and with Williams languishing at the back of the Formula One grid, it’s unclear if he would be interested in joining them.
However, under new ownership and management, it’s possible they could make a big step forward once the new technical regulations come into effect for the 2022 season.
All things considered, I think it’s very likely that we will still have Sergio Perez on the Formula One grid next year. However, which car he’ll be driving is very much up in the air at this particular moment in time.
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