Red Bull bosses “desperately need” Pérez to step it up after a nightmare F1 Qatar Grand Prix weekend

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While Max Verstappen officially clinched his third consecutive championship, teammate Sergio Pérez had a weekend to forget in Qatar, which once again prompted questions about his future at the team.

After failing to make it out of Q2 during Friday’s qualifying session, Pérez was again nowhere near the top three in the Sprint Shootout on Saturday. A midfield tangle between Pérez, Hulkenberg and Ocon in the Sprint left the Red Bull driver stranded in the gravel with a severely damaged car.

In an attempt to get the RB19 race-ready for Sunday, the team breached parc fermé regulations, resulting in a pitlane start for their Mexican driver.

It was a messy race for Pérez, who picked up three separate 5 second time penalties for track limit violations, with his race engineer warning that “this is hurting our race.” He only managed to finish tenth, while Verstappen cruised to yet another victory.

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Asked by the media post-race whether the extreme conditions in Qatar were a contributing factor in Pérez’s inability to stay within track limits, team principal Christian Horner replied, “I don’t know, I think we really need to sit down with Checo because we know what he’s capable of and he’s not hitting that form at the moment.

“We desperately need him to find that form to keep this second place in the championship.

“It was frustrating that he’s only come out of the weekend with one point and I think he could have—even starting from the back of the grid—there was an opportunity to score heavily today or decently,” Horner added, alluding to Carlos Sainz’s DNS and Lewis Hamilton’s lap 1 retirement.

“But we’ll support him as much as we can because there’s the triple-header coming up [United States, Mexico, Brazil]. There’s a huge amount of points with sprint races as well.

“He’s going to have a lot of [fan] support in the next three races, and [especially] his home race in Mexico City. So hopefully that will help him find the form and the confidence that he seems to have lost a little bit at the moment.”

Pérez started the season well, even prompting a conversation about a potential title fight between the Red Bull teammates.

Asked whether his recent dip in form is a result of him not feeling 100% in the car, or a general lack of confidence, Horner explained that sometimes a driver needs to step back and reset in order to restore that shaken confidence.

“I think when you get into a bit of a spiral like that, the two things become intertwined and I think you just need to sometimes sort of take your foot off, put it on the floor, stop the merry-go-round and just go back to basics and that’s what we’ll do.

“We all know what Checo is capable of and we want to support him to get back into a position where even as near ago as Monza, he was finishing in second place to Max.

“Traditionally that’s been the best way of supporting him. We’re fully behind him, we know what he’s capable of, so that’s the form we want him to find.”

Horner also touched on the pressure of finishing 1-2 in the Drivers’ Championship—a feat no Red Bull teammate pairing has managed to date.

“I think with the car like we have, he’s probably putting that pressure on himself.

“The most important thing for us is winning both championships. We’ve done that. And then, what’s the next best thing after that would be to have both your drivers first and second.

“You can see Mercedes have a pair, McLaren have a pair, Ferrari have a pair that are quite tight between the respective drivers.

“I think we’ve had that at the earlier point in the year. But as the season has gone on it’s become more variant.”

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull’s current situation is arguably reminiscent of the Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber partnership.

On the Pérez-Webber comparisons, Horner said, “This sport, at the highest echelon, it’s a mental game as much as a physical game. I think Checo’s mentioned he’s working with a coach in that area, I think that’s what we need to unlock with him.

“The frustration is that we know what Checo has been capable of doing. Of course, last year and this year, he’s contributed significantly to the constructors’ championship. We desperately want him to find that form and as a team; we need him to.

“We can’t afford to have a big split because if, as you would expect, the grid continues to concertina next year, we need both drivers delivering at the top of the game.”

Amid speculation that Red Bull could change its lineup sooner rather than later, for his part, Horner has insisted that Pérez is still the team’s priority.

Helmut Marko, on the other hand, was less magnanimous in his assessment of Pérez’s predicament, making a point of reminding the Mexican driver that Red Bull has “three relatively good drivers in AlphaTauri” waiting in the wings.

“The gap is simply too big at the moment because second place in the World Championship is also at risk now,”

“As long as we didn’t have a constant chaser. But now it becomes critical when two such strong drivers sit in the McLaren.

“In general we want to implement the contractual situation, which lasts until 2024. And that’s entirely up to him now.”