Christian Horner sets clear Sergio Perez target after ‘blip’ with F1 2025 ‘options’ identified

Oliver Harden
Sergio Perez looks unimpressed in conversation with Red Bull engineers at Imola

Sergio Perez looks unimpressed in conversation with Red Bull engineers at Imola

Christian Horner has warned Sergio Perez that Red Bull “need” him to be supporting Max Verstappen after a “blip” at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola.

And the team boss has revealed that Red Bull know “exactly” what their options are as Perez pursues a contract extension for F1 2025.

Christian Horner challenges Sergio Perez to secure Red Bull F1 2025 contract

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

After a wildly inconsistent F1 2023 campaign, Perez has made an encouraging start to the new season, contributing to three one-two finishes for Red Bull in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Japan.

However, the 34-year-old – whose current Red Bull deal is due to expire at the end of this year – had a weekend to forget at Imola, where he was eliminated in Q2 after a crash in final practice.

Despite deploying an alternative tyre strategy, Perez could only recover to eighth on race day – one place below what Red Bull’s simulations had predicted as the best-case scenario.

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Perez’s off weekend has rekindled memories of his mid-2023 slump, when he failed to reach Q3 for five consecutive races between May and July as his Red Bull seat came under serious threat.

Speaking after the race at Imola, Horner described the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix as an “anomaly” – and stressed the “need” for Perez to support Verstappen as Red Bull face an ever-growing threat from McLaren and Ferrari.

He told Sky F1: “It was a shame for Checo, effectively being out of kilter following qualifying.

“We ran the reverse strategy with him. He got P8 at the end and seventh theoretically was the best that we could see on our analysis before the race.

“We obviously need him up there supporting Max in the same way the two Ferraris and the two McLarens are together.

“I think he has had a much better start to this year bar this weekend, which has been an anomaly.

“He’s been very, very strong and I think that his approach has been more relaxed, less focused on what Max is doing, just focusing on himself.

“I think he’s responded to that.”

A theory has developed that Perez tends to struggle most when the F1 calendar returns to Europe, with his pace deficit to Verstappen ballooning on more traditional driver circuits.

Despite Monaco marking the start of his mid-season slump last year, having crashed at the first corner of his first flying lap of Q1, Horner has backed Perez to respond this weekend before the schedule takes F1 to Canada.

He told media including PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher: “I think it’s just a bump. Let’s see in Monaco next weekend – and then we leave Europe again.

“I think it’s just a blip. He’s always gone well at Monaco, so we’ll see.

“It’s a 24-race calendar. He’s had a great start to the year. His approach has been been very strong, he’s changed his approach a bit this year.

“Today’s result was dictated by yesterday’s qualifying.”

Asked if Perez’s off weekend has come at a bad time in the context of the volatile driver market, Horner revealed that Red Bull’s options for F1 2025 are established.

He said: “The whole driver market is playing itself out. We know exactly where we’re at and where our options are.

“When the timing is right, for us, we’ll make decisions about the future.

“Checo is always a very straightforward guy to deal with, so I wouldn’t expect that to be an issue.”

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