Christian Horner grilled on ‘horrible’ Sergio Perez performance after new Red Bull contract

Oliver Harden
Christian Horner in conversation with Sergio Perez and Helmut Marko in the Red Bull garage

Christian Horner in conversation with Sergio Perez and Helmut Marko in the Red Bull garage in Montreal

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has challenged Sergio Perez to “come back strong” at the Spanish Grand Prix after marking his new contract with a “horrible weekend” in Canada.

Red Bull announced ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix that Perez will remain with the team until the end of the F1 2026 season, having signed a new two-year contract.

Christian Horner reacts to Sergio Perez’s disastrous Canadian GP weekend

The decision to retain Perez was made despite his increasingly shaky form – including early qualifying exits in Emilia Romagna and Monaco – over recent weeks, with the Mexican admitting he “needs to regroup” after a stable start to F1 2024.

The 34-year-old’s season slumped to an alarming low in Montreal, where he fell in Q1 for a second race in succession before retiring with damage to his rear wing after spinning into the wall on a drying track.

Perez’s misery was compounded with the news that he would serve a three-place grid penalty at the next race in Spain for driving back to the pits with severe damage, with Red Bull fined €25,000 for the incident.

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Horner has claimed that Red Bull were “let off the hook” by Ferrari’s disastrous performance in Canada, which allowed the team to reassert their control of the F1 2024 title race.

And he stressed the need for Perez to support Verstappen in the face of a growing threat from the likes of Ferrari and McLaren, with the former adding just four points to Red Bull’s tally across the last three races.

He told Sky F1: “That was a horrible weekend for Checo and obviously he picked up some damage, so he’ll need to come back strong in Barcelona.

“Thankfully Ferrari had a shocker today, so they didn’t get any points, so that let us off the hook somewhat.

“But we need both cars scoring. We got away with it today, but we need Checo back up there where he was at the beginning of the year from Barcelona onwards.”

Perez suffered a similar dip in form at the same stage of last season, going five races without a Q3 appearance between May and July as scrutiny on his Red Bull future mounted.

Horner has backed Perez to get back on track, having contributed to three one-two finishes for Red Bull at the start of F1 2024 in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Japan.

He said: “What we see with him time and time again, you think he’s on the ropes and then he bounces back. He’s a tough racer, he’s a tough character.

“It hurts him more than anybody else and he’ll be determined to come back and show everybody the form we know he’s capable of – and showed in the first four races of this year – in Barcelona.

“The margins are fine, but he knows what’s at stake.

“We need him performing at the top of his game because in the Constructors’ [standings] we’ve got three teams that are nipping at our heels and you’ve got to be firing on all cylinders.”

Perez complained during his mid-season blips in 2022/23 that Red Bull’s development had moved away from him as the season had progressed, leaving his performances lagging behind Verstappen.

However, Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko claimed after qualifying in Canada that Perez’s current struggles are “more psychological”, admitting it is “painful” to see the Mexican fail to reach Q3 for three races running.

Marko told Servus TV: “It’s not the car, you can see that with Max. I think it’s more psychological.

“When the conditions change, he finds it much more difficult. But the fact that it’s already the third time is painful.”

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