Christian Horner keeps Perez on toes with new Verstappen teammate hint

Christian Horner keeps Perez on toes with new Verstappen teammate hint

Red Bull boss Christian Horner has warned Sergio Perez he must battle for more wins alongside world champion teammate Max Verstappen if he wants to retain his seat for the 2025 Formula 1 season. Despite sweeping both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships over the last two years, Horner wants to see more from Perez as he looks to compete with Verstappen more regularly in 2024. 

The 2023 season was totally bossed by Red Bull, with Verstappen claiming his third successive world championship on the back of 19 race wins out of a possible 22. Perez won in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, but his title challenge faltered as he struggled for consistency while Verstappen cruised ahead of the field.

Perez faded badly, failing to get a podium for six races before his P3 finish in Las Vegas. As a result of his inconsistent form, Red Bull has made it clear the Mexican – who will start the 2024 campaign with the team – must improve if he is to receive a fresh deal. 

The Milton Keynes-based team is happy to wait to assess its options over who should partner Verstappen in the long term, especially with Daniel Ricciardo on call if needed. Asked about the team’s thought process about the options regarding Perez’s future beyond next year, Horner is relaxed. 

And while he told Perez it is his “seat to lose”, he admitted they have “loads of options” in a clear hint that finding a new teammate for Verstappen is not out of the question. 

“I think the luxury position we’re in, is that we’re not in any rush,” the Red Bull team boss said. “We’ve got loads of options and I think it is Checo’s seat to lose.

“He’s the one that we’re backing. He’s our 2024 driver. And if he does a great job next year, there’s no reason that we wouldn’t extend him into 2025. But it’d be purely based on what he achieves over what will be a large part of the season.”

Perez joined Red Bull ahead of the 2021 season, helping the team win back-to-back Constructors’ Championships alongside Verstappen’s three successive world titles. But Horner is looking to the future and needs both cars to maximise performance to put points on the board. 

At times in 2023, Perez found himself jostling for position in the midfield while Verstappen was in a league of his own out in front. Horner acknowledged that racing alongside the Dutchman is a difficult prospect, but he still wants to see two Red Bulls leading the field. 

“I think that being Max’s teammate is tough, and I think that you’ve got to have a certain resolve and character to be prepared to go up against Max,” the 50-year-old continued. “But as the field converges, it is inevitable that you want your two cars as close together as you can achieve.

“With Checo, his race pace and his racing, has been very strong on many occasions. It’s his performance in qualifying that is probably the area that he needs to focus on over the winter.

“But he’s acutely aware that he’s got to up his qualifying average, so that he’s not having to come from so far back.”