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Horner says that Red Bull needs Perez to up his game

Red Bull needs Sergio Perez to regain his early-season form and be in the mix at the front of the field again, says team principal Christian Horner.

Perez started the season in strong form, backing up Max Verstappen victories with second place in three of the first four races. However, his third place in China — behind Lando Norris — was his last podium, with a fourth in Miami being followed by a pair of eighth places and two retirements in the past four rounds.

“We need Checo in the mix — he knows that and the team knows that,” Horner said. “If he’s on the back end of the top eight you lose strategic options, whether you split it or so on. Checo in the first four or five races this year was fantastic; we just need to get him back into that headspace.

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“I think that he’s had a couple of difficult races. Things haven’t gone his way, and he’s a confidence-driven driver I think. He was back in the points [in Spain], drove a decent race; hopefully he’ll take some confidence out of that for the coming races.”

One of the reasons Perez’s results have dropped off is because Red Bull has come under increasing pressure as a team, with Verstappen beaten in Miami and Monaco, and having to fight hard for wins in Imola, Canada and Spain. Horner says the victory in Barcelona was particularly sweet because of how well the entire team had to perform, with McLaren having a quicker car over the race distance.

“I’d prefer winning races by 40 seconds as it’s a lot less stressful, but I take more satisfaction out of a race win like [Sunday] because everyone’s had to deliver,” he said. “Max has been truly outstanding, the team has delivered, the engineers, the strategy has delivered, all of the work, the simulations, everything that goes into the race, it all delivers.”

Verstappen’s win opened up his advantage in the drivers’ championship to 69 points, and Horner says that margin should not be overlooked given how close the field has been since the early rounds this season.

“If you ignore 2023, we’re having an amazing year. 2023 was a unicorn, and this is normal — this is Formula 1 and it’s normal there’s great teams, there’s great drivers, there’s going to be competition.

“And it’s stable regulations. The benefit of stable regulations, it always converges. I always remember when I came into Formula 1, Ron Dennis said to me, in a Commission meeting, ‘If you want close racing, leave it alone — just leave it alone, and everything converges.’

“And that’s what we’re seeing at the moment — everything converging, and then we’re going to smash it all up for 2026. We’re having to fight really hard for the wins at the moment; we’re having to be on the top of our game as a team, and the drivers have to be at the top of their game as well. That’s Formula 1 — that’s as it should be.”

Story originally appeared on Racer