Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner insists Sergio Perez’s seat on the team for 2024 is not dependent on him beating Lewis Hamilton to second place in the drivers’ championship.
Perez retired from his home grand prix in Mexico City on Sunday and heads to this weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix with a 20-point advantage over Hamilton after the latter finished second with the fastest lap. After seeing the gap between the two close and with Red Bull chasing its first one-two in the drivers’ standings, Horner says there’s no automatic trigger regarding Perez’s future based on his finishing position.
“No, it’s not as binary as that,” Horner said. “You’ve got to look at the circumstances and so on. Checo has an agreement with us for next year, and that’s our intention — for him to be in the car in 2024. We’ll give him all the support that we can so that he finishes second. There’s no prerequisite that if he doesn’t finish second, you’re out.
“He’s got three races now to convert that second place, there’s 20 points between him and Lewis. He’s had some misfortune, he’s had some issues. But we still believe he can do it between now and the end of the year.”
Horner says one of the ways Perez has impressed Red Bull is by coming through similar tough spells in the past to deliver strong results.
“He’s a tough operator. That’s why he’s in the car, because mentally, he’s always been able to bounce back. He’ll brush himself down and he’ll turn it into motivation. Sprint race in Brazil, Las Vegas a street circuit — he’s always run well at street circuits. Abu Dhabi, he’s always been competitive there as well. He’ll have the full support of the team to try and achieve something that we’ve not done before.”
Horner also feels special motivation for the upcoming Brazilian race after losing out to Mercedes there last year.
George Russell’s win at Interlagos in 2022 was the only time Red Bull was beaten between Charles Leclerc’s victory at last season’s Austrian Grand Prix and Carlos Sainz’s win in Singapore this year. The Mercedes result marks the only non-Red Bull win in that run of 25 races, and Horner expects another challenge in Brazil this season.
“They’ve (Mercedes) been competitive on race runs (in Mexico). Austin’s difficult to judge because of what happened. We expect them to be competitive in Brazil for sure. Brazil for us is a scratch unitched from last year when we felt we didn’t get the setup quite right. So we’ll try and put that right this year.”