July 16, 2024
Sergio Perez

A crisis is looming for the reigning world champions, although the team standings suggest that Red Bull remain relatively safe for now. Max Verstappen has won just three of the last seven Grand Prix and the Milton Keynes outfit are third on the points tally since the Florida race.

McLaren have 171 points, Mercedes 157 and Red Bull Racing (RBR) just 134. This points to a growing problem for Red Bull, who have traditionally been dominant but now find themselves in a precarious position.
Sergio Perez
Ferrari, once a significant challenger to Red Bull in the early stages of the year, have faded dramatically, scoring just 115 points since Miami, although Charles Leclerc won in Monaco and his team-mate finished third. Sergio Perez has scored just 15 points in the last six Grand Prix and his struggles show no signs of abating.

Christian Horner’s tone has changed in recent weeks; rather than dismissing Perez’s poor form as a temporary slump, he declared before the Silverstone race that Checo’s form was “unsustainable”, insisting: “We need to score points in this car and he knows that.”

Horner’s stark comments underline the growing urgency within the team to address the performance gap between Perez and his teammate. With Red Bull chasing a third consecutive Constructors’ Championship, every point counts. The team cannot afford to have one driver significantly underperform, especially as the rival teams close the gap.

Two races to go
The upcoming races in Hungary and Belgium before the summer break are crucial for Perez. He needs to improve his performance and close the 137-point gap to Verstappen. If the gap remains over 100 points, Red Bull have the contractual freedom to replace Perez.

This looming deadline has heightened scrutiny of Perez’s recent performances and led to calls from former drivers such as Robert Doornbos for Red Bull to activate these contract clauses.

“In my opinion, the team management should now say: We are activating the clauses that we have in his contract,” Doornbos said.

“Because why else would they be there? They are there for a reason and what we are seeing at the moment is really dramatically bad.” The sentiment reflects a growing impatience within the team.

Doornbos’ comments highlight the wider expectations of a team like Red Bull. The inclusion of performance clauses in contracts is standard practice, designed to ensure the team’s competitive edge. Activating these clauses would not only address the immediate performance issues, but also send a clear message about the team’s commitment to excellence.

Contract uncertainty and future prospects
Sergio Perez signed a new contract before the Monaco Grand Prix, which was heralded as a new two-year deal. In reality, however, it is a one-year deal with an option for a second year at the team’s discretion. Dutch publication De Telegraf recently reported that Perez’s contract contains clauses that could see him demoted to the junior RB team if he falls more than 100 points behind Verstappen by the summer break. Perez currently trails Verstappen by 137 points.

Perez acknowledges the pressure, but remains focused on the immediate challenges.

“I know where I am in terms of the contract and things like that. I can not let it be a distraction. I have to concentrate on the next two weekends, which are the priority, and work together as a team to get out of this difficult period,” he told the media.

Perez a “Massive problem”
Despite these contract details, 2009 World Champion Jenson Button believes Red Bull must act urgently to avoid losing ground in the Constructors’ Championship in the second half of the 2024 F1 season.

“It’s a massive, massive problem,” Button told Sky F1. “This [Silverstone] was a terrible weekend. It was unlucky in a way. It’s not going to happen every race weekend, but for McLaren to lose so many points is huge.

Button’s comments echo a common concern among analysts and fans. The consistency required to win championships demands that both drivers contribute significantly to the points tally.

Any prolonged dip in form, such as Perez’s, threatens not only the individual standings but also the team’s overall success.

Zak Brown’s “lack of respect”

Performance under scrutiny
Perez’s recent performance has been a major concern for Red Bull. His qualifying sessions have been particularly poor, contributing to his meagre points haul. In F1’s competitive landscape, qualifying position can have a significant impact on race results, and Perez’s struggles in this area have been detrimental to his standing within the team.

The widening gap between Perez and Verstappen is worrying.

“He’s been very far behind for six or seven races, especially in qualifying, which means you have less chance of scoring points – or not scoring at all in a stronger field,” said Doornbos. This consistent underperformance has left Perez in a precarious position, with the team considering activating the performance clauses in his contract.

The pressure on Perez is immense. Every qualifying session and race is now a critical test of his ability to remain competitive. The mental and emotional strain of such scrutiny can be as challenging as the physical demands of racing, further complicating Perez’s efforts to turn his performance around.

Potential replacements and future plans
The upcoming Liam Lawson test at Silverstone provides Red Bull with an opportunity to assess potential changes, similar to last year when Daniel Ricciardo’s impressive performance led to his immediate promotion to Alpha Tauri, replacing the underperforming Nyck De Vries. Perez’s underperformance has put his position under the microscope, with Lawson’s test performance potentially influencing Red Bull’s decision.

Interestingly, Yuki Tsunoda, who recently secured another two years with the Red Bull group, has not been offered a test in a Red Bull car, unlike Ricciardo and now Lawson. Team principal Christian Horner was noncommittal about the Japanese driver’s future, saying: “You can never rule anything out. We have multi-year options on him because we believe he’s a talent.”

Horner’s comments reflect the team’s strategic approach to rider development and placement. The decision to test Lawson at Silverstone is part of a wider evaluation process to determine the most suitable driver line-up for Red Bull Racing.

The situation with Tsunoda adds another layer of complexity. Although he has shown promise, his inconsistent performances and lack of testing in a Red Bull car suggest that the team may not yet consider him ready for the main team. This leaves the door open for other drivers to step up.

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