After Taskmaster Helmut Marko’s Thunderous Orders, Real Reason Behind Sergio Perez’s Sinking Title Hopes Comes to Light

Published 06/06/2023, 9:00 AM EDT

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Red Bull gave Sergio Perez a new lease on life when they signed him right after the 2020 season when he had nowhere to go. Watching him fight his way from last to first at the 2020 Sakhir GP—in a Racing Point, no less—to achieve his first race win, everyone knew he had so much more to offer. Red Bull took the opportunity to sign him as a replacement for Alexander Albon for the 2021 season. 

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While the Red Bull second-seat curse has made that seat alongside Max Verstappen a game of musical chairs ever since Daniel Ricciardo left the team in 2019, Checo proved himself worthy of it in 2021. Not only did he help Verstappen win the Championship that year, but he also won the Azerbaijan GP. Since then, he has won four more street races—including the prestigious Monaco GP in 2022—owing him the title of “King of the Streets.” Five races into 2023, and with two wins under his belt, Perez looked like a strong contender for the Championship, fighting against his teammate. But the Monaco GP is where his hopes started sinking. And the Spanish GP only made matters worse, at the end of which the difference between Verstappen and him is 54 points.

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Red Bull Racing taskmaster Helmut Marko suggested that Perez concentrate more on racing than the Championship. He’s focusing too much on the title fight, distracting him from doing a job he usually does well—driving. This extra pressure is forcing him to make mistakes he usually wouldn’t. According to Marko, his performances in Monte Carlo and Barcelona are wake-up calls, subtly implying he needs to pick himself up or risk losing his seat. Even so, he believes Checo has what it takes to get back into form and possibly challenge Max.

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King of Streets Sergio Perez’s Ability Questioned Against Max Verstappen as Red Bull’s History Tipped to Repeat: “That Man Is A..”

Given his recent performances—or the lack thereof—former McLaren mechanic Marc Priestley seems to think that his future in the team is in danger, even for the 2023 season. On the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast, he said, “With Perez, I don’t know if he’s lost confidence over recent weeks – there was talk of a championship fight just literally two races ago. Now people are even questioning his right to be in that car. Can he even make it to the end of the season?”

Red Bull isn’t short of replacements for Sergio Perez

Late last year, Red Bull signed Daniel Ricciardo as their third driver. The Honey Badger is one of the few drivers who has challenged Verstappen in the same machinery. If Red Bull were to look for an experienced driver they trust to replace Checo, the Australian would be the obvious choice. But Christian Horner has reiterated that they “certainly have no plans to utilise him other than in that third driver role, to combine with the commercial activities that he will be performing.” But if the situation calls for it, Red Bull might call Ricciardo to partner Verstappen again.

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If not Ricciardo, Red Bull’s sister team, Alpha Tauri, has Yuki Tsunoda—a Red Bull junior who climbed through the ranks to reach F1. While former Alpha Tauri Team Principal Franz Tost thinks Yuki has what it takes to be in that Red Bull, Horner believes he isn’t quite ready yet. “We’re seeing that he’s maturing as a driver. He certainly has speed, and I think as he gains experience, I’m sure he’s going to become more rounded,” said Horner, as quoted by Express.

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Red Bull also has an enormous pipeline of junior drivers in the F1 feeder categories. The likes of Liam Lawson, Ayumu Iwasa, Dennis Hauger, and Jak Crawford will all jump at the first opportunity they get to secure a seat in F1.

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Watch This Story | Will Daniel Ricciardo Get Swapped in for Sergio Perez at Red Bull? 

After he won the 2021 Monaco GP, Red Bull committed to Checo till the end of 2024. But given his recent dip in performance and underwhelming results, Red Bull might start looking elsewhere for second-seat services.

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Written by:

Aditi Krishnan

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One take at a time

Aditi is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports and is essentially a sportsperson. She fell in love with F1 in 2020. It happened when her brother tuned into that first race weekend in Austria, and she knew right then and there that she had to learn everything she could about the sport.
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Edited by:

Akash Pandhare

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