Sergio Perez is in a fight to hold onto his Red Bull seat but while some have already ruled him out, securing his spot for 2025 is possible.
Of the 20 drivers on the 2024 grid, it is Perez who is most under pressure. An utter domination by his team-mate Max Verstappen last season and a number of poor mistakes from the Mexican has left many wondering if it is a matter of when not if he will lose the seat.
But words from inside Red Bull would suggest the driver, who turns 34 today, at least has a fight to keep hold of his spot and should he fix a few things, he would remain a solid candidate for the seat.
Fix his qualifying form
If Perez was to write up a to-do list, qualifying should be at the top in capital letters and underlined.
While his race form was not too bad in 2023, it was in qualifying where Checo let himself down.
His average starting spot was ninth (Verstappen’s was third) which considering he had one of two of the quickest cars is far below where he should be starting.
It also left him with a mountain to climb at almost every race which, to his credit, he did often do. 15th in Austria became third, the same starting spot at Silverstone became sixth. Even his P20 in Qatar saw him salvage a points finish.
But to even compete with Verstappen, you have to give yourself the best chance of doing it and starting 10 places back from the Dutchman made it a near-impossible challenge for Perez.
A run of five consecutive Q3 non-appearances was not the kind of Red Bull records he wanted to be setting and with a grid that looks set to be more competitive this season, Perez must be stronger in qualifying.
Accept his position in the team
It can be tough for any racing driver to swallow their pride but when you are alongside a generational talent, that is simply something you have to do.
In Perez’s first Red Bull season, he seemed happy to play wingman to Verstappen, most notably holding up Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi, but in 2022 he tried to assert himself as a title contender in his own right.
A Monaco qualifying crash, which if you believe some quarters was deliberate, appeared to spill some bad blood between the two, repaid by Verstappen in Sao Paulo, and even in the 2023 season, Perez was not always willing to move over for his team-mate.
But if Perez wants to keep hold of his seat in 2025, he must accept the pecking order. Verstappen is a three-time World Champion with age on his side. The highest paid driver on the grid and very much the future of the team. Red Bull may say it is even between the two but the last thing the team wants to do is to upset their prized asset.
Perez then has a choice – keep fighting and lose the seat or accept the second driver position and live to race another day.
Cut out the mistakes
Although we suggested that Perez’s race form was all together better than his quali, that is not to say it was mistake free.
At Suzuka, it seemed as if he was on a one-man mission to pick up as many penalties as possible and the embarrassing return from the pits to complete a penalty was a perfect example of when Perez can have the biggest of off days.
No one is asking for a perfect season but Perez needs to make his mistakes far rarer.
Get out of his own head
Perez seems a driver more affected by emotion than most and his run of qualifying issues would suggest he sometimes gets in his own head.
Self-criticism is nothing bad but there can come a time when it becomes too much and begins to affect your driving.
Perez is not a rookie either so when the going gets tough, he needs to remind himself that he is a seasoned veteran with wins and podiums under his belt. Everyone knows he is a good driver, he just needs to believe that more himself.
Hope Daniel Ricciardo does not light up the season
The last one is less in Perez’s control but just as important for Daniel Ricciardo is very much seen as the next in line for that Red Bull seat.
2023 was supposed to be the Australian’s audition but his broken hand meant 2024 will be his time to show if he still has what made him an eight-time race winner.
To do that, he needs to have a good season at VCARB and the minimum goal should be to beat Yuki Tsunoda but Perez needs to hope the Australian does not have a blistering start to the season or the pressure will be ramped up another notch.