Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has rejected the notion that Daniel Ricciardo’s return placed extra pressure on Sergio Perez during the F1 2023 season.
Perez enjoyed his best-ever start to an F1 season in 2023, winning two of the opening four races in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, but suffered an alarming mid-season implosion.
As Perez failed to reach Q3 for five successive races between Monaco and Silverstone, Red Bull placed reserve driver Daniel Ricciardo at junior team AlphaTauri for the rest of the season.
Did Daniel Ricciardo’s F1 return affect Sergio Perez?
Ricciardo previously enjoyed a successful five-year spell with Red Bull, winning seven races with the team between 2014 and 2018, and has made no secret of his desire to replace Perez as Max Verstappen’s team-mate.
Red Bull’s decision to bring Ricciardo back was widely interpreted as a move to focus Perez’s mind amid his desperate run of form, but Horner has dismissed the suggestion that the Australian’s comeback had an adverse effect on Perez.
Asked if Ricciardo’s return contributed to Perez’s inconsistency, he told the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast: “I don’t think so.
“I think that there’s always pressure in Formula 1 and, when you’re in the hottest seat on the grid there’s always going to be interesting speculation around that.
“There’s probably not a driver on the grid that wouldn’t like to be in that car this year – and that’s a pressure in itself.
“But Checo is the driver that we believe, we’ve supported him throughout the year and I think he’s responded well to that.
“Heading into 2024, it’s his seat and he needs to do enough to convince us in ’24 to extend that contract.
“But I’m confident that he’s going to take a lot of positives out of this year and we’ll build on that next year.”
Despite scoring fewer than half the points of 2023 World Champion Verstappen, Horner was encouraged by Perez’s end-of-season performances with the Mexican finishing fourth or higher at four of the last five races.
And the Red Bull boss is convinced that Perez’s runner-up spot in the Drivers’ standings will provide him with a major boost heading into next season.
He explained: “What you have to understand is that to be Max’s team-mate is a phenomenally difficult job psychologically, because of the level that Max is operating at and the performances that he’s delivering.
“He’s a generational talent and I think that Checo has had the strength of character to cope with that.
“He’s had some tough patches during the season and he’s had his critics in the media, but he’s brushed himself down, he’s picked himself up and the way he finished the season [was encouraging].
“He was leading for a period of the race in Las Vegas and he should have been on the podium without that five-second penalty in Abu Dhabi and to have won that second place [in the Championship] is a big result for him.”
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