Speculation surrounding Sergio Perez’s Formula 1 future has been made more interesting by two key Red Bull details, one of which being contract-related.
Only in Formula 1 can one of the two drivers with race victories through the first 12 races of a season, the same driver who sits in second place in the world championship standings, be considered on the “hot seat” due to “poor performance”.
But that is the position in which Sergio Perez finds himself at Red Bull, even though he signed a contract last May to remain with the team through both the 2023 and 2024 seasons.
Perez came out of the gate strong in the 2023 season, and it looked as though he would at least make things interesting with teammate and two-time reigning world champion Max Verstappen for the title battle in an RB19 machine that has been by far the class of the field.
But the 33-year-old Mexican has hit a rough patch as of late, securing only two Q3 appearances and three podium finishes in the last seven events.
Meanwhile, Verstappen is riding an eight-race winning streak — 10 if you include the two sprint races — and opened up a lead of 125 points (five full race wins) over Perez in the standings prior to the summer break.
And so here we are, with speculation as to who could potentially take Sergio Perez’s seat as early as the 2024 Formula 1 season.
According to Dutch publication De Telegraaf, Perez has a performance clause in his contract which can be triggered in the event that he falls 125 points behind Verstappen in the standings. Just 12 races into the 22-race season, he finds himself exactly 125 points behind, meaning that his contract can reportedly be “adjusted”.
Note that these potential adjustments only pertain to “salary and bonuses”. There is nothing in this particular clause that would allow Red Bull to terminate his deal early or demote him to sister team AlphaTauri.
In fact, Perez is said to have a specific clause in his contract to prevent Red Bull from moving him to the sister team, given the fact that that has happened to multiple Red Bull drivers in the past.
Additionally, for as well-known of a brand as Red Bull is, Perez’s presence as a member of the team has been felt in a big way, with roughly 65% of all online Red Bull sales going to Mexico.
In the business that is Formula 1, the benefits of having that type of driver cannot be overstated.
All things considered, there is no legitimate reason to believe that Perez won’t be back next year. Do Red Bull have a history of making early driver changes? Yes. That’s “how they do it”, according to Lewis Hamilton.
But there are plenty of other instances of them not operating in that manner, and even amid Perez’s recent struggles, Red Bull find themselves with more than twice as many points as second place constructor Mercedes.
And let’s not forget that Perez still sits in second place in the standings. It’s not as if he is hindering the team. Aside from Verstappen, Perez is in the best possible position. In a competitive field that has seen multiple teams challenging to be second quickest on any given weekend, that cannot be taken lightly.
Plus, Perez has begun to rediscover his form as of late, entering the summer break fresh off back-to-back podium finishes and a front row start in Spa. And even during his recent five-race streak of failing to reach Q3, he made up an average of 7.6 positions per race. Sundays are not his issue and, quite frankly, never have been.
And even though Verstappen ultimately breezed past him for the lead and subsequent victory at Spa, it’s hard to pick a driver who would have had any easier of a time preventing such a seemingly inevitable occurrence.
While the focus was on Verstappen scoring his eight straight win, it is worth remembering that Perez’s laps led in Spa were the first laps he led since Verstappen passed him late in the Miami Grand Prix back in May, preventing his teammate from leading the world championship for the first time in his career.