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Sergio Perez served as Red Bull’s perfect ‘Number 2’ for 2 years before 2023 went downhill for him. And that’s when the renewal of his contract post-2024 came under question. Team Advisor Helmut Marko was consistently critical of the Mexican driver’s performance. But come the Japanese GP Qualifying, Marko has changed his critical stance while also revealing the contract “stakes” that are looming.

With F1’s 2024 silly season going wild with rumors, Perez’s seat is under threat. But with the kind of performances that he has shown in 2024, the threat is minimized. At Suzuka, the Guadalajara-born racer nearly pipped his teammate Max Verstappen for the Pole position. Only 0.066 seconds separated the two Red Bull drivers, which left everybody impressed with Perez.

This performance also highlighted the start improvement in his racing compared to the 2023 Japanese GP, where he DNFed. “Last year in particular this was Sergio’s worst race,” Marko told Motorsport, highlighting the contrast. “Everything went wrong then, so I think it is especially satisfying for him. You can see that he can do it.

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The Austrian also stressed on the contract renewal and how the race results will affect that. “But perhaps it also influences that next year’s contracts are at stake, this year much earlier than usual. And that also seems to be very motivating.”

Along with the contract pressure that Perez is facing, Marko reckons there is another big change in his driving mentality that brought about this performance change.

Helmut Marko reveals key approach change in Sergio Perez’s racecraft

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In 2023, Sergio Perez declared himself a championship contender alongside his teammate Verstappen. But things went horribly wrong after that. This followed some technical decisions that the Red Bull driver took with his RB19 that only made matters worse. According to Marko, he has now stopped doing that and shares the same setup as Verstappen.

“He has also started the races with a different attitude this year,” Marko said. He is no longer trying to follow his own technical path. The cars are almost identical in terms of set-up. And that’s what makes the difference in the end.”

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It looks as if Perez has finally found the sweet spot in his Red Bull stint. After a hiatus of 14 races without being on the front row, he finally did in Japan. Hopefully, it is onwards and upwards for the 34-year-old as he could be fighting for the win tomorrow.

Written by

Yash Kotak

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Yash is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports. With a strong passion for communicating through written word and a keen interest in the world of motorsports, he thoroughly enjoys being a fan of F1 and covering it for other fans. Ever since he watched the 'INSIDE TRACKS' episode covering the 2018 German Grand Prix, he has fallen in love with the intriguingly complex world of F1.
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Edited by

Harshita