It is without a doubt Red Bull has been completely dominant throughout the beginning of the 2023 Formula 1 season. The team has recorded a first place podium in all eight races to start the season and currently upholds a 154 point lead in the constructors championship. Additionally, the team accomplished their 100th race win in the sport with Max Verstappen’s victory at the Canadian Grand Prix. Yet, there has been ongoing speculation surrounding the success of Sergio Perez and what many consider to be his underperformance in an indisputably fast car.
Perez’s 2023 Season at a Glance
In his first five races of the season, Perez remained relatively consistent – qualifying within the top three positions in every race excluding the Australian Grand Prix. He was victorious in both Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, where he pushed Red Bull one step closer to achieving the most successful start to a season in Formula 1 history. He also finished second in Bahrain and Miami, earning Red Bull two double-podiums to begin the season.
However, Perez has appeared to struggle in the last three races – at least in comparison to his successful start. In Monaco, Spain and Canada, he failed to surpass the second qualifying session or accomplish a podium finish. There is also a 69 point differential in the drivers championship between Perez, in second place, and his teammate Verstappen, in first.
Perez’s Results Qualifying Race
Bahrain 2 2
Saudi Arabia 1 1
Australia No Time 5
Azerbaijan 2 (Sprint) 1
Miami 1 2
Monaco 20 16
Spain 11 4
Canada 12 6
Possibility 1: Perez Remains in Seat
The likelihood of Red Bull willingly replacing a driver who has won them two races this season seems relatively slim. The team has a more-than generous lead in the constructors championship (154 points ahead of Mercedes), meaning that unless the other teams make considerable upgrades to their cars, Red Bull is not expecting to experience an unforeseen drop in the standings in the near future. As well, Perez is still finding a way to generate points on race day despite his poor qualifying results over the last three races. Of all eight races he has started and completed, he has only fallen outside of the top ten once – at the Monaco Grand Prix. Needless to say, his success has been beneficial for the team although less fortunate for himself in the drivers championship.
Possibility 2: Daniel Ricciardo Replaces Perez
Helmut Marko, an advisor for Red Bull, announced that Daniel Ricciardo, the team's current third driver, will undergo testing in the RB19 following the Silverstone Grand Prix. This has prompted many to consider Ricciardo as a replacement for Perez if his misfortune continues. Ricciardo formerly competed with Red Bull from 2014-18 alongside Sebastian Vettel, Daniil Kyvat and Max Verstappen. He departed from the team on his own accord, signing a two-year contract with Renault. After experiencing limited success, he signed another two-year contract with McLaren – which inevitably ended in the same manner. Conceivably, if Ricciardo were to demonstrate a higher rate of success throughout the three-day testing – and Perez’s qualifying results remain stagnant – there is a possibility Red Bull looks to swap drivers before the season concludes.
Possibility 3: Red Bull Buys Out Perez’s Contract
Perez is currently signed on to a two-year contract with Red Bull, which he signed following his 2022 Monaco Grand Prix race win. The contract is set to conclude at the end of the 2024 season. However, when Daniel Ricciardo left McLaren – partially on his own accord – the team was required to buy-out the remaining $18 million dollars to end his contract prematurely. Arguably, Red Bull has the option to terminate the remainder of his settlement and sign another driver to compete with the team prior to the end of 2024.
If this were to occur, there are several additional drivers who have been rumored to be of interest in acquiring the Red Bull seat. Among several names being mentioned, Yuki Tsunoda appears to hold the greatest weight. The Japanese driver currently races for Alpha Tauri, Red Bull’s development team, and has an expiring contract which has yet to be renewed. Alex Albon is another driver to look out for, considering he previously competed for Red Bull from 2019-21 and has surpassed Perez in qualifying over the last three races. Other notable names have included Lando Norris and Niko Hulkenberg.
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