Christian Horner has urged Sergio Perez to dig deep for 2024, in order to fight for an extension to his Red Bull contract.
Perez is entering the final year of his existing contract with Red Bull, with all eyes on the Mexican driver as the pressure mounts on him due to the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo at AlphaTauri.
Speculation has been rife since his return to an F1 cockpit that Ricciardo could be slotted into Perez’s car, perhaps even before the end of Perez’s existing contract, should he struggle for form in the same fashion as he did throughout 2023.
Christian Horner: We all know what Sergio Perez is capable of
Perez has the opportunity to turn things around in 2024 and, while his 2023 season had more downs than ups despite a very strong start to the season, the Mexican driver secured a career-best finish as he placed second in the Drivers’ Championship as Red Bull secured a 1-2 for the first time in their history.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with PlanetF1.com, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner spoke about what he’s hopeful of seeing from Perez in 2024 as contract negotiations ramp up through the season.
“We all know what Checo [Perez] is capable of,” he said, when asked what Perez needs to do to secure his future with Red Bull.
“I think he just needs to work hard to achieve consistency.
“But, you know, it’s a tough gig being Max’s team-mate.
“Time and time again, he’s bounced back when he’s been under pressure, a bit under criticism from the media.
“He’s done his talking on the track, and he’s done it again, at the tail end of this year with some very strong drives.”
While Red Bull’s RB19 proved untouchable for almost all of the season, with Verstappen and Perez wrapping up every win between them – bar Singapore – Horner is expecting a closer fight in 2024 and, as a result, Perez will need to up his game in order to keep Red Bull fighting strongly against more consistent driver pairings.
“We’ve just got to work harder,” Horner said, in response to a question about whether it’s Perez needing to pull up his socks, or whether Red Bull is failing to extract the best out of their driver.
“Because we need him firing on all cylinders at 24 races next year because the competition will move closer.
“So we need both drivers as tightly bunched as we can in order to ensure that we do our utmost to defend both titles.”
With Perez and Verstappen working together quite well as a team-mate partnership, aside from a rocky patch at the end of 2022 as a disagreement – the cause of which was never confirmed publicly – threatened their friendship, is managing the Perez/Verstappen relationship easier and more satisfying than Red Bull’s last golden patch when Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber squabbled?
“I very much enjoyed Sebastian’s winning years,” Horner said.
“I mean, Mark got a bit grumpy on occasions. But what Sebastian achieved was outstanding.
“I think that Max, in the same way, has been totally dominant. What he’s achieved has been exemplary.”