McLaren driver Oscar Piastri is no longer in the discussion to potentially replace Sergio Perez at Red Bull after the 2024 Formula 1 season.
Sergio Perez opened up the 2023 Formula 1 season looking like he might be able to challenge Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen for the world championship, but that illusion was short-lived.
Since the two were level on wins through four races, Verstappen has opened up a 177-point lead — more than seven race wins — over his teammate in the driver standings, having just gone on a 10-race winning streak.
During Verstappen’s run of 11 wins in 12 races, Perez recorded just three runner-up finishes. Meanwhile, Verstappen hasn’t only finished lower than runner-up once this year, and even in the race he finished outside of the top two, he still finished three places higher than Perez.
Perez signed a contract extension with Red Bull last year to keep him with the Milton Keynes-based team through the 2024 season. Team principal Christian Horner has insisted that the team plan to honor his contract, even amid speculation that Red Bull could do what they have been known to do in the past and pull the plug early.
Realistically, there is no reason not to believe Horner, however, as Perez is still in second place in the driver standings.
But the prospect of Sergio Perez returning to Red Bull for the 2025 Formula 1 season appears grim.
Speculation regarding who will replace the 33-year-old Mexican driver has been ramping up amid his struggles, and Oscar Piastri’s name had been thrown into the mix.
Ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, McLaren implemented a series of upgrades on the MCL60 of Lando Norris. McLaren, which looked like arguably the slowest team on the grid to open the season back in early March, were rewarded, with Norris finishing in a season-high fourth place.
The team then implemented the same upgrades on Piastri’s car ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit. He qualified in third place and finished in fourth, though he would have scored a maiden podium if not for a late safety car. Norris finished in second after starting on the front row and leading the first four laps.
Then in the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring, McLaren proved their pace was no fluke. Norris finished in second place again, and Piastri finished in fifth after spending the first stint in second. Piastri went on to lead laps and finish in second in the sprint race at Spa, while Norris added a runner-up finish in the Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Both drivers finished on the podium in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit, with Piastri doing so for the first time in his career.
There had been talks of Red Bull approaching both Norris and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc about Perez’s seat for 2025 in the effort to create a “dream team”, which is what Formula 1 owners Liberty Media are reportedly pushing for in order to create a more intriguing world championship battle.
But amid McLaren’s resurgence, talk of Norris departing has seemingly stalled, and Leclerc is said to be working with Ferrari on a long-term agreement.
Norris, who is under contract with McLaren through 2025, even recently revealed that he had been urged by Verstappen to keep the faith in the Woking-based team, with Verstappen pointing to some of his own doubts in Red Bull from a few years ago.
Sticking with Red Bull has certainly paid off for Verstappen, and sticking with McLaren appears as though it is finally paying off for Norris, who has been with the team since 2019. He has what it takes to be the driver who leads this legendary organization forward and brings them back to their glory days.
As a result, Piastri’s name entered into the mix to replace Perez, and there were a few good reasons.
First of all, the 22-year-old Australian showed last year that he will not hesitate when it comes to making what he believes is his best career move.
Last summer, Alpine announced that he would be replacing the Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso, but he denied this announcement. Under the impression that Alpine would not have an open Formula 1 seat, the longtime Alpine Academy driver had already signed with McLaren to replace Daniel Ricciardo.
Secondly, Piastri’s manager is Mark Webber, a former Red Bull number two driver. If anybody could make inroads on getting his client a shot at that seat, it would have to be the driver who played a key role in their run of four consecutive world constructor championships from 2010 to 2013.
And finally, while Norris has shown that he is still McLaren’s top driver, Piastri clearly has talent. Quite often, young and talented drivers end up making silly mistakes and failing to capitalize when they are finally given top-tier equipment. Just look at Pierre Gasly upon his Red Bull promotion in 2019. Potential doesn’t always translate when drivers move up to more competitive teams.
But once McLaren finally emerged as a competitive team this season — arguably the fastest behind Red Bull, in fact — Piastri has been practically perfect. He has driven like a veteran, showing poise and consistency well beyond his years to capitalize on his team’s newfound pace.
However, at the same time, all of this gave him plenty of reason to extend his McLaren stay, and that is what he has done, having signed a contract extension to remain with the team through at least the 2026 season. His contract now runs one year longer than that of Norris.
Who will become Red Bull’s primary target to pair alongside Verstappen, who remains under contract with the team through 2028, in 2025? Does Perez still have a chance to return if he can improve before then?