As his qualifying struggles led to yet another lacklustre grand prix, Christian Horner has reassured Sergio Perez that his Red Bull race-seat is not under threat.
Much was written and said, a large part of the latter coming from Perez’s own camp, as the Mexican driver went head-to-head with his double World Championship-winning team-mate Max Verstappen at the start of this season.
But by race five, the Miami Grand Prix, it was clear which Red Bull driver was hitting his stride and which of the team-mates was faltering with Verstappen passing Perez on the track despite starting P9 to his team-mate’s pole position.
Three races later and history suggests Perez’s title challenge is over as no driver has ever overturned a 69-point deficit to win the title. In fact the biggest margin ever was Verstappen’s 46 last season.
It had Horner stating even before Canada that the pressure was off Perez’s shoulders and he could now just drive but even that didn’t help him this past weekend as he stuttered in qualifying, lined up 12th on the grid, and could only recover to P6.
But while fellow racer Oliver Askew has warned that “when your momentum is going backwards, and for Sergio Perez that is the case, it’s hard to stop that train”, Horner reckons one good race weekend could stop the rot.
“He just needs a good weekend to lift his confidence,” the Red Bull team boss said as per The Telegraph.
“I think he’s had three difficult weekends and three difficult Saturdays that then puts you on the back foot on a Sunday.
“We’ve seen what Checo’s capable of only a month or two ago and I think, he just needs to have a strong weekend to find that confidence and then I’ve got no doubt he’ll be back.”
Such have been Perez’s trials of late there are once again rumours that his Red Bull race-seat could be on the line with Yuki Tsunoda knocking on the door.
Asked about that in Montreal, Horner was quick to defend his driver.
“He’s second in the World Championship at the moment,” he said. “He’s the only other driver to have won races other Max this year.
“So yeah, we need to support him through this period and I’m sure he’ll find his form again soon.”
Former F1 driver turned pundit Martin Brundle believes Perez is the best option for Red Bull given no one except Fernando Alonso or Lewis Hamilton could take the fight to Verstappen such is his incredible form.
“I suspect only Alonso and Hamilton would have the head to cope with Verstappen at this moment and I doubt Red Bull would want that volatility in their team,” he told Sky F1.
“The team’s perfect scenario would be Sergio to finish a close second to Max every race, and win when Max can’t.”
Perez remains second in the Drivers’ standings but only by nine points ahead of Fernando Alonso with Lewis Hamilton a further 15 off the pace.