Helmut Marko has claimed that Red Bull want to honour the terms of Sergio Perez’s contract but admitted that it is only the lack of viable alternatives that are keeping the 33-year-old with the team for 2024.
The Mexican endured an extremely messy weekend in Qatar last time out, tangling with Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg to send him out of the sprint race and forcing him to start the Grand Prix from the pit lane.
He recovered to fight in the points on Sunday but a haphazard approach to track limits meant that he picked up three penalties for crossing the white lines, sabotaging his efforts to claw back a meaningful points return from his outing at the Lusail International Circuit.
Speaking to Sport1 about Checo’s future, Marko said: “I repeat myself, but Perez has a contract and we want to respect it. We’re doing everything we can to get him back on track.
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“We just don’t have any alternatives. Otherwise, he might have a problem. At the moment I only see one person who could come close to keeping up with Max – Fernando Alonso.”
Ralf Schumacher also weighed into the debate, adding: “At the moment it speaks in favour of Marko and Red Bull that they respect Perez’s contract. But I am firmly convinced that they will replace him with Daniel Ricciardo at the beginning of next season if he continues like this. And unfortunately, I think that will be the case.”
While Marko has always been a harsh critic of Checo, it appears that his performances are starting to frustrate team principal Christian Horner, who has been historically supportive of his number-two driver in spite of his struggles this season.
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Speaking to Sky Sports F1 after the Qatar Grand Prix, Horner said: “Checo has had a bit of a shocker of a race. He’s had a horrible weekend – the incident on Saturday and unfortunately the three penalties in the race.
“Without those penalties, he would be a lot further up the points scoring on a day Lewis [Hamilton] didn’t score, so a missed opportunity to really try and cement that second place. We just need to try and get that form that he showed at the beginning of the season back. We know he’s got it within him.”
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