Sergio Perez’s Red Bull career now at the mercy of Daniel Ricciardo – or is it?

Jamie Woodhouse
Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez side-by-side.

Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez side-by-side.

Sergio Perez looks as safe as houses in that second Red Bull seat for the remainder of F1 2023, but beyond that, Daniel Ricciardo poses a very serious threat.

Ricciardo had decided to take the F1 2023 campaign as an opportunity to sit on the sidelines and assess his hunger for a 2024 return, but the Honey Badger did not even make it to the halfway point of the season before receiving the offer to return. And he took it.

Starting out the year as Red Bull’s reserve driver, his Pirelli tyre test after the British GP was billed as a chance for Red Bull to put him in the RB19 and see how his performance now stacks up out on the track, and so impressive was the outcome that he is back as of the Hungarian Grand Prix taking Nyck de Vries’ spot at AlphaTauri.

Daniel Ricciardo gunning for Sergio Perez’s Red Bull seat

But not content at AlphaTauri, he’s after Sergio Perez’s Red Bull race-seat.

And that is not a prediction, that is a fact as Ricciardo has blatantly labelled a Red Bull return as the “fairytale” final chapter to his Formula 1 career. Max Verstappen can sleep easy in the face of that ambition, but Perez cannot.

With Ricciardo having made such a point about not wanting to return to the F1 grid at any cost, interested instead only in opportunities to win, it would make zero sense for him to take up the offer of driving the slowest car out there in the AlphaTauri AT04 if a Red Bull comeback was not the actual motive.

And with that in mind, it is quite clear that Ricciardo is back for an audition for Perez’s seat and to, if Red Bull and Ricciardo get their way, put the pressure firmly on the Mexican driver. recommends

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Now, while it is important to note that Red Bull’s word is not necessarily giving the full story away, team boss Christian Horner having said Ricciardo working his way back into the Red Bull line-up is not in their plans, Perez can definitely trust the team when they say his seat is safe for the remainder of F1 2023 – as long as he does not crash into Verstappen of course!

Red Bull have never claimed a one-two finish in the Drivers’ standings, and after coming close last season with the RB18, the unconquerable dominance of their F1 2023 creation, the RB19, means that achievement is surely a certainty this season…as long as they keep Perez.

Indeed, Perez holds that P2 spot in the Drivers’ Championship, which is after all him hitting his objective as a Red Bull driver, and the ever-changing pecking order of the chasing pack now gives him the opportunity to build a safety net as the likes of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton behind take points off each other, and lose more yet to their pursuers.

As Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko himself has said, it “wouldn’t make sense” for Red Bull to axe Perez now and most likely throw away that one-two opportunity, and going along with that famous F1 saying of ‘the points are handed out on Sunday’, Perez continues to do enough in that regard.

His qualifying form needs attention, absolutely. A five-race streak of Q3 absences is not acceptable, but Verstappen is dominant enough to not currently require a rear-gunner in the strategical battle out front, and Perez consistently recovering into a solid points-scoring position is fine in Red Bull’s books.

Sergio Perez must fear Daniel Ricciardo for F1 2024

But, once the points tallies reset, Red Bull will have the opportunity of a straight choice between Perez and Ricciardo over which of those F1 veterans, with multiple race wins to their name, is the one to put their faith in.

For that reason, Perez had best hope that the McLaren version of Ricciardo shows up at AlphaTauri, which with Red Bull junior Liam Lawson waiting in the wings, would surely spell curtains for the F1 career of Ricciardo and ensure that Perez continues with Red Bull, at least for another year.

Yuki Tsunoda, while impressing in his third campaign with AlphaTauri, feels like a promotion risk which Red Bull would not take, Horner having recently observed that “I don’t think he’s at our level yet”.

However, if we see the Ricciardo of his Red Bull days take the wheel of the AlphaTauri AT04, dragging it up the order to strive for the tail end of the points, all while putting Tsunoda in his back pocket, then Perez is in trouble.

Of course, Perez can help his cause drastically by suddenly nipping his qualifying woes in the bud and reeling off P2 finish after P2 finish to see out the season, but having said that he has grown “more sensitive” to the RB19 in recent rounds, especially when it comes to one-lap pace, somehow that feels like a highly unrealistic prospect.

The mission is simple then for Perez, he must keep his head under the relentless pressure of being Verstappen’s team-mate, stack up the points, be such an amazing team player that he strips the ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ tag away from Alonso, and then hope that Ricciardo’s return descends into a nightmare.

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