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Too soon? Our verdict on Red Bull keeping Perez for F1 2025

7 min read

Sergio Perez has a new Red Bull Formula 1 deal as Max Verstappen's team-mate for at least the 2025 season, and possibly for another year after, too.

This for a driver who started 2024 as a strong rear-gunner for Red Bull's talismanic force, yet has since hit a dramatic slump in form right when the team's rivals appear closer than ever - making the timing of this announcement peculiar.

Why has Red Bull made that decision - or why now? Does this ensure team harmony at a turbulent time, or does it pose a threat to Verstappen's F1 supremacy?

Our writers have their say:

There must be other factors behind this

Scott Mitchell-Malm

It's hard to justify this decision on competitive grounds beyond 'what makes life easiest for Verstappen' - which may well be Red Bull's clearest route to success.

If this had been announced around, say, the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, it would be difficult to argue with. Red Bull on top, Perez backing up Verstappen effectively for the most part, and a very strong foundation set for both 2024 championships to be wrapped up with minimal fuss.

Three races later the competitive picture is not the same. Red Bull has come under more pressure and Perez's form has sharply declined. There is every chance and expectation he will bounce back, score good results from now until the end of the season, and maybe even grab a win or two - but this is how a Perez Red Bull season goes.

Given Red Bull bosses were talking not that long ago about not rushing a decision, and joking that Perez was performing well because he was fighting for a new contract, it seems strange to reward him with a new deal when he has stopped doing a good enough job - even if it is only temporary.

Red Bull has time on its side, so locking Perez in now has to be about more than performance. Other factors must be at play.

Is Perez benefiting from being closely aligned with team boss Christian Horner, who seems to have won whatever internal war has been waged in recent months? Is it that continuity is simply easiest and less messy? Or is it about letting Verstappen be #1 and banking on 1.5 cars being enough to win both championships given Red Bull should, on balance, have the best package over the rest of the season?

Maybe it's all of the above, and/or some unknown variables. But nobody can deny Perez is getting this deal despite his recent form, not because of it.

This goes against what made Red Bull's reputation

Ben Anderson

I’m honestly quite surprised Red Bull decided to stick with Perez. Admittedly he’s started 2024 better than he finished 2023 (not hard!), but now the going is getting tougher for Red Bull overall and we're seeing the maddening inconsistency of Perez return.

No one should be dropping out in Q1 in that car, and Monaco reminded us how far off Verstappen’s level Perez drops when that car is not right in the much narrower window of performance in which he can operate compared to his team-mate.

As the current development war heats up over the rest of 2024 and early 2025, Red Bull is likely to come under increasing pressure from Ferrari and McLaren. Those teams are on a fantastic trajectory that suggests they will go all-out to wrest the championship titles from Red Bull before another major rules change potentially resets the game.

To that end, Red Bull absolutely needs the best driver line-up available - and Verstappen/Perez isn’t that. True, there weren’t unlimited options available, but at one stage Red Bull could surely have had its pick of Fernando Alonso or Carlos Sainz - both of whom, I think it's fair to say, would represent an upgrade on Perez right now.

Re-signing Perez also corners Red Bull into relying totally on Verstappen to carry it forward as lead driver beyond 2025 - which is absolutely not guaranteed given his unsentimental competitive nature and the realistic possibility Red Bull Powertrains could become outmoded when those 2026 engine rules kick in.

Sure, managing the different dynamic with an Alonso or Sainz in the team might not have been easy. But the dynamic with Perez has hardly been breezy throughout his time at Red Bull either.

Red Bull built its incredible F1 reputation on making bold, challenging and sometimes cut-throat decisions. This feels like the opposite of that.

Better not to upset the apple cart

Gary Anderson

Perez is probably the only driver who can offer Red Bull what it wants. He is now a clear number two and accepts that and understands how the Verstappen-driven team works.

If Red Bull was to sign someone like Sainz, it would be upsetting the apple cart even further during these internally troubled times.

So it's best to stick with what it knows and if it can give Perez a car that he is happy with then he will score reasonable points. If Verstappen was to slip on a banana skin it would be a very different matter.

Could be bad for Verstappen

Edd Straw

Having an easy-to-beat and compliant team-mate tends to suit star drivers, and often it’s beneficial as it ensures focus is not split and results are maximised. However, there are circumstances where Verstappen could regret not having a stronger team-mate alongside him.

When it comes to perceived ‘number two’ drivers, usually the focus of discussion is on the constructors’ championship. But there is a drivers’ championship angle as well because in a close fight with another team or teams, you need points taken off the opposition.

This can risk straying into taking points off each other, the classic example being Williams pairing Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet doing so in 1986 and Alain Prost won the title, but it can also be a valuable weapon.

In a close fight with McLaren or Ferrari - perhaps even both - then Perezfailing to provide a buffer in qualifying could swing a championship fight against Verstappen.

Verstappen has few weaknesses but one of the things he cannot do is drive both cars and that’s why, if things get tight, he either needs a more consistently dependable Perez - and at his best, he can be exactly that - or a stronger and potentially more irritating team-mate alongside him.

Where this makes Verstappen's life easier

Glenn Freeman

If Red Bull's rivals really get their act together for 2025, then retaining Perez is going to make claiming next year's constructors' championship a big ask.

But it might be the simplest route to Verstappen winning another drivers' title.

Yes, Perez's fluctuations in form will leave Verstappen exposed if he faces a real test from the Ferrari and/or McLaren drivers across the whole season. But Max is more than capable of fighting that battle on his own.

And while the more evenly matched pairings of Leclerc/Hamilton and Norris/Piastri will occasionally leave him outnumbered, they will also be taking points off each other in a way that won't be happening at Red Bull.

Known quantity status makes this a gamble

Matt Beer

It might seem like the apparent clamour from parts of the media and fanbase for Perez to be replaced is unfair on a driver who's a six-time grand prix winner, has finished second in a world championship, and played a vital role in ensuring Verstappen beat Lewis Hamilton to the only title Verstappen's actually had to fight for so far.

After all, Verstappen's a ferocious team-mate to go up against. How many people are there who Red Bull could be genuinely confident would do a better job in comparison to the all-time great leading the team at present?

But the point now is that Perez at Red Bull is a known quantity. Not a bad one, and on his best days a very good one. But we know what Perez in a dominant Red Bull looks like and it involves some Q2 or even Q1 exits and not getting on the podium in some races Verstappen wins. You need more than that if you're in a close title fight, and Red Bull might be soon.

Alternatives exist and Perez isn't doing so well that Red Bull should feel it had too much to lose by trying one of them.

And it doesn't feel harsh on Perez to say he's had his time at Red Bull. He's now 24th on the all-time list for most F1 podiums, has a few well-earned wins (one pre-Red Bull of course) and two top-three championship finishes. That's already a great career innings for a driver who at one stage looked like he'd never get a shot near the front of the F1 grid - and did deserve one.

Now he can keeping adding to those stats. But if the competition's closing in, he won't be notching up podiums at quite the same rate unless he's closer to Verstappen more often.

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