Horner: Perez has started the 2024 F1 season “in the best possible way” — “it’s his seat to lose”

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Red Bull could well head into the 2025 Formula One season with an unchanged driver line-up for a fifth consecutive season.

Mexico’s Sergio Perez has made a very strong start to the 2024 season following his best ever result in the Drivers’ Championship last year with P2.

At Suzuka last weekend, he got within 0.066s of teammate Max Verstappen in qualifying as he produced one of his best laps in Formula One since his debut at the 2011 Australian Grand Prix.

In the race, he efficiently cleared Leclerc, Norris and the Mercedes drivers at critical points — including passing Hamilton and Russell into 130R to finish a very solid 2nd, comfortably ahead of Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari.

Perez has finished P2 three times to teammate Verstappen in the first 4 races of 2024, with a P5 in Australia as a tear-off got lodged in his floor that cost him downforce and load in the second half of the race.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner was very happy with Perez’s performance, even if those moves on the Mercedes drivers had him wincing on the pit wall.

“I thought Checo in particular has had a strong weekend where to qualify within a tenth of his team mate here […] his race pace was strong obviously, he had the disadvantage of having to come back through the traffic.

“There was a couple of moments where I must admit I had my eyes shut as he went into 130R.

“Do you need to do it there, can’t you wait till the straight? He didn’t look like he had three kids when he made that move.”

After winning 2 of the first 4 races last year, Perez’s campaign nosedived from Monaco qualifying onwards when he crashed out in Q1. He failed to make it through to Q3 on 9 occasions and finished 290 points behind Max Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship when the chequered flag fell on the season in Abu Dhabi.

Perez explained at Suzuka last weekend that getting back to basics on car set-up was allowing him to feel a lot more confident in trusting the car and getting the maximum out of it.

Asked about that, Horner is very pleased with what the Mexican doing and says the seat for next year is his hands providing he keeps delivering his current performances.

“I think his confidence is high, he’s very focused on the job at hand and he’s comfortable in the team.

“He knows he’s out of contract for next year, it’s his seat to lose. He’s very popular in the team — and he’s started the season in the best possible way.

“He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”

In January, Scuderia Ferrari confirmed that Charles Leclerc agreed a long-term deal with the squad. On the 1st of February, one of the biggest shocks in F1 history happened when the Italian giants announced that Lewis Hamilton had agreed a multi-year deal with them for 2025 and beyond.

Earlier this week, Aston Martin confirmed that Fernando Alonso signed a new multi-year deal with the Silverstone team, taking him through to 2026.

The driver market has been unusually hectic so early in a season. Nonetheless, it’s not something Horner and Red Bull will be getting involved in.

The Brit says the Milton Keynes-based squad will take their time on making decisions. However, Perez seems the warm favourite to drive alongside Max Verstappen once again next season.

“The whole driver market seems to be very early this year, everybody seems to be rushing around. We’re only four races into the year so I think we’re not in a huge rush.

“Obviously there’s a significant amount of interest in our cars as you would expect.

“But Checo has the priority and there’s going to be a few more races yet before we start to think about next year.”

Heading into the first sprint event of the season next weekend in China, Perez is P2 in the Drivers’ Championship, 13 points behind teammate Verstappen.