What’s Eating Sergio Perez?

Like him or not, the skilled Mexican has helped Red Bull (and Verstappen) get to where they are today. But his feats from the past won't keep him employed much longer.
Mark Thompson

Red Bull Racing’s own Instagram graphic following the 2024 Formula 1 British Grand Prix says it all: Max P2, Checo P17. This disparity between teammates in F1’s best squad has become somewhat normal—at least for the fans. Those who have always considered Checo unworthy of his seat sound off in the comments to point out his current performance. Meanwhile, loyal followers quickly highlight that Max Verstappen and even RBR wouldn’t be where they are today without the Mexican’s loyalty and skill. Regardless of which side you’re on, what’s undeniable is that Sergio Perez‘s current lack of performance has already put him on thin ice, and team boss Christian Horner is cranking up the heat.

“He knows it’s unsustainable to not be scoring points,” said Horner after another poor performance from Checo at the British Grand Prix. “We have to be scoring points in that car and he knows that. He knows his role and his target, so nobody is more eager than Checo to find his form again.”

Getty Vince Mignott/MB Media

Checo’s performance has had its highs and lows during his tenure with the team; oftentimes getting darn close to Verstappen in the points, and other times severely underperforming while the now three-time world champ dominated entire weekends. But despite their different approaches, Checo brought in points more often than not. And even with poor qualifying performance, his reputation of being the “Tire Whisperer” gave us incredible feats on race day, where he’d often come from the back of the grid to finish in the top five or even the podium.

Now, that magic seems to be gone. Any glimpse of Checo on TV throughout the race weekend shows a face of frustration and disappointment. Making matters even worse, Red Bull was once untouchable, humiliating the competition at every grand prix. Everyone knew Verstappen would win and, even with lackluster performance, Checo would finish in second or third place. Things have now changed and Red Bull is no longer dominating and Checo isn’t anywhere near the podium. The million-dollar question remains: why?

Is it the car? Is it him? Is it something else? The answers to those questions lie within the closed-door meetings and after-race debriefs with the engineers. It’s puzzling, for sure, for Checo to not be able to squeeze the most performance out of his car. He’s not new to the team, and following multiple good seasons at Red Bull, so he should be scoring points left and right in 2024. He ought to be enjoying the fruits of a relationship he’s been fostering since 2021.

Getty Jayce Illman

Perez has only scored 15 points since Miami, while Verstappen has scored 119. When it comes to the Constructors’ Championship, Perez is no longer fulfilling his role of making sure the Milton Keynes squad is unchallenged. For what it’s worth, Red Bull doesn’t care if Checo wins—that bit is all for Max—but it absolutely cares that he’s a consistent point scorer for championship purposes. Fail to do that, and you’re persona non grata.

According to Motorsport.com, a performance clause on his F1 contract is at risk of being triggered by his latest shortcomings. If this were to happen, Checo’s future at Red Bull—and possibly in F1—would come to an abrupt end. Knowing Red Bull’s reputation and Helmut Marko’s love for Checo (and other “South American” drivers), the termination papers could already be printed with the cap off the pen.

It’s time for Checo to perform or face the music.

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