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Horner on the future of Perez at Red Bull: ‘it’s his seat to lose’

Perez says he is feeling ‘relaxed’ about his future at Red Bull and believes the decision is only ‘a matter of time’

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Sergio Perez expects to know ‘within a month’ what he is doing next year.

Sergio Perez Christian Horner Red Bull Japan 2024
Sergio Perez and Christian Horner are all smiles in the Red Bull garage during the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix weekend. (Image Credit: @SChecoPerez on Twitter)

Sergio Perez feels confident after the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix where he moved from P3 to P2 in the Drivers’ Standings. He took the second step of the podium alongside his teammate and victor, Max Verstappen.

When asked by Sky Sports about his Red Bull seat for the 2025 driver market, Perez said:

“I’m really pleased with what I’ve done in the sport so far”

He said he was “relaxed about it” but does recognise the competition for his current seat. He continued: “The driver market is moving and the next few weeks are going to be a lot of movement for sure.”

Horner is full of praise for Checo

Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner spoke to Sky Sports after the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix. He was asked about Perez’s chances of retaining his Red Bull seat. He praised Perez’s performance so far this year, remarking:

“He’s doing a great job.”

Discussing Perez’s qualifying session, Horner said: “He qualified within a tenth of a second yesterday – by far his best qualifying performance round here – and I think that you can see his confidence is growing.” Speaking about Perez’s race, Horner continued: “I thought his performance in the race, again, was very strong today.”

Sergio Perez Red Bull Suzuka Japan 2024
Sergio Perez during the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix practice sessions in Suzuka. (Image Credit: @SChecoPerez on Twitter)

Notably, Horner said that this was:

“His third second place of the year and doing exactly what was needed of him.”

Marko pleasantly surprised

Helmut Marko, Red Bull advisor, is not always a champion of Perez. However, he was pleased with the 34-year-old’s performance in Japan this year. As reported by Motorsport, Marko said:

“I think Perez is better than expected. Especially after a really bad weekend here last year.”

Sergio Perez Red Bull Japan 2024
Sergio Perez driving his Red Bull round the Suzuka Circuit during the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix weekend. This year the event took place during sakura season. (Image credit: @SChecoPerez on Twitter)

He continued: “The set-up worked in the end. And as a result, a one-two [in qualifying], which we had not achieved in a long time. Especially Perez in the front row of the grid, I have to think how long ago, because it was a long time ago.”

Considering the 2025 second Red Bull seat, Marko shared: “Last year in particular this was Sergio’s worst race. Everything went wrong then, so I think it is especially satisfying for him. […] 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.”

Last year’s poor performance

Perez’s performance at the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix was less than ideal for Red Bull. His confidence coming to the Suzuka Circuit in 2024 must have been shaky. He was coming to Japan off the back of two P2 finishes – in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – and one P5 finish during the last race in Australia.

During the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix, Perez was involved in a four-into-one situation heading into turn one after the race restart. He had an average start off the line from fifth and ended up alongside Charles Leclerc, who had a bad start from fourth. Making matters worse for the Mexican Red Bull driver, Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton both had good starts off the line from sixth and seventh. This meant all four cars were battling for space on the same half of the track.

With four wide into turn one, Perez ended up sandwiched between Hamilton and Sainz. His tyre came into contact with Hamilton’s on his left, while his front wing was damaged by contact with Sainz on his right. With a good portion of wing missing, Perez immediately struggled with understeer and was forced to take an early pitstop.

Picking up penalties

A safety car was on track when Perez came into the pits. As he crossed the pit entry line he overtook Fernando Alonso, picking up a five-second penalty. He was then handed another five-second penalty after a poorly executed move on Kevin Magnussen that had him colliding into the rear-left of the Haas driver. Magnussen span out after the hit from Perez.

Perez then complained on the radio that the car did not feel right. He was told to retire to the pits. He was then served that second penalty for the move on Magnussen. After 40 minutes in the garage, Red Bull sent Perez back out into the race to serve the penalty and negate the grid penalty for the following race in Qatar.

2023 is still on his mind

Speaking to Sky Sports after his P2 qualifying result in Suzuka this year, Perez’s thoughts were on his 2023 disappointment:

“Overall, more than the results, it’s how pleased I am, you know, to look back […] This place was, last year, one of the hardest places for us because of what we were doing with the car.”

He explained that last year Red Bull were “compromising a lot” on Perez’s setup but they have since found more solid stability. He explained: “It puts me a smile to my face because then it shows we can be strong elsewhere.”

When asked if he could take the fight to Verstappen on Sunday for the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix, he said: “Yeah, I think I am really confident. The confidence is slowly coming back”.

Did he take the fight to Max?

Red Bull brought upgrades to Japan. As reported by Autosport, the Austrian team added side pod inlets and revised the floor, including surface changes and an increased camber.

With these new upgrades, Perez performed well in the free practice sessions. He set the second-fastest time in FP1, just 0.181 seconds behind Verstappen. In FP2, neither Red Bull set a time due to wet weather. FP3 saw a repeat of the 1-2 in FP1 with Perez 0.269 seconds behind Verstappen’s lap time in this session.

Sergio Perez F1 Red Bull 2024 Japan
Sergio Perez drives his RB20 around the Suzuka Circuit during the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix weekend. (Image Credit: @SChecoPerez on Twitter)

In the qualifying session in Suzuka, Red Bull enjoyed another 1-2 result. Verstappen’s fastest laps in each session were 1:28.866 in Q1, 1:28.740 in Q2, and 1:28.197 in Q3. Perez, who qualified in second place, set his fastest lap times of 1:29.303 in Q1, 1:28.752 in Q2, and 1:28.263 in Q3 – just 0.066 seconds off pole position.

When asked by F1 if he believed pole position was possible, Perez answered:

“Yeah, I think we’ve been really close all weekend, all the way through qualifying as well.”

Sergio Perez F1 2024 Japan Red Bull
Sergio Perez remained on medium tyres after the race restart at the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix. (Image Credit: @redbullracing on Twitter)

During the race, Perez completed some excellent overtakes. On laps 17 and 18, he passed one Mercedes followed by the other on the next lap. Both overtakes were down the inside at 130R.

On lap 35, Perez passed Lando Norris’ McLaren in the same section of track.

However, his race was not without issues. Early into the race during lap six, Perez went wide at the second Degner. He lost two seconds to Verstappen ahead, but still had the same gap to Norris behind.

Overall, though not the winner of the official DHL award, Perez got my vote for driver of the day. He performed well all weekend and demonstrated excellent racecraft during the grand prix. His efforts helped to secure Red Bull another perfect weekend score.

Red Bull F1 trophies 2024 Japanese Grand Prix
Red Bull Racing take home three trophies from the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix. (Image Credit: @redbullracing on Twitter)
Is it enough to keep his seat?

Perez’s performance in Suzuka has improved the team’s confidence in him. After his P5 in Australia, the Austrian outfit will have doubted Perez’s ability to perform his role within the team. With Verstappen experiencing reliability issues and having to retire from the race in Melbourne, Perez’s job was to win the race. He did not.

However, returning to the run of Red Bull 1-2 finishes will aid Perez’s campaign to remain in his seat for next season. If he maintains the good form he displayed today, and continues to prove what he has proven in Japan, he should keep his seat for 2025.

2024 Japanese Grand Prix podium Red Bull F1
The 2024 Japanese Grand Prix podium finishers celebrate with champagne. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in first, Sergio Perez in second, and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in third. (Image Credit: @redbullracing on Twitter)

Undoubtedly, Perez’s performance improved greatly compared to his race in Suzuka last year. However, the Japanese Grand Prix was at the end of September last year, whereas this year it took place at the start of April. Therefore, due to the 2024 calendar, we may still see a repeat of last year for Perez. He had a strong start to his season followed by a deterioration in performance towards the end of 2023.

Featured Image Credit: @SChecoPerez on Twitter

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