Former driver bucks the trend and backs Sergio Perez to continue for ‘two to three years’

Michelle Foster
Sergio Perez goes to congratulate race winner Max Verstappen. Miami May F1 2023

Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen offer their congratulations.

Juan Pablo Montoya doesn’t believe Red Bull will drop Sergio Perez as they won’t want to risk a disruption by another driver putting Max Verstappen under pressure.

Teaming up in 2021 when Red Bull handed the Mexican driver a lifeline after his Racing Point exit, Verstappen called his new team-mate a “legend” after Perez held up Lewis Hamilton at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to give Verstappen a fighting chance.

Ironically a year later Verstappen refused to do the same for Perez when he was up against Charles Leclerc in the race for P2 in the standings, because “is that fair racing”.

‘There is no reason to put another driver in instead of Checo Perez

But while that was just one sign that things weren’t as harmonious as they seemed between the Red Bull team-mates, especially after Verstappen refused to give Perez back a position at that year’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Red Bull continued with the same line-up into this year’s championship.

It, though, is now said to be under threat with Perez’s seat reportedly on the line as he struggles to break out of a wretched qualifying slump.

Failing to make it into Q3 five races in a row, Perez has bagged just one podium since his Miami Grand Prix runner-up result and has fallen 99 points behind Verstappen in the race for the World title.

With Red Bull having announced on Tuesday that Daniel Ricciardo will now be at AlphaTauri instead of Nyck de Vries, the Aussie’s return to racing is being billed as his audition for Perez’s seat.

Montoya, though, doesn’t believe Red Bull want to replace Perez.

“There is no reason to put another driver in instead of Checo Perez,” he told VegasInsider. “There is no reason to take a risk with something that can disrupt the relationship.

“Having Checo as a team-mate gives a really nice atmosphere because Max is not under any kind of pressure.

“Sometimes Checo can bring the A-game and wake Max up and make him go ‘ooh I really need to stop playing around.’ It works well at the moment.”

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Montoya reckons Perez may even extend beyond his current contract which runs through to the end of next season.

“Maybe in a few years, two to three years, they need to change and find somebody because Max will go through a phase and that’s normal. He’s still going to be amazing but he’s going to change a little bit,” said the former F1 driver.

“Somebody maybe needs to come in with a lot more hunger at that point to get the job done and that’s a part of the deal.

“The media love poking. It’s like a dog with a bone and people will react to the story.”

But on the back of de Vries’ axing, the 28-year-old the latest to be brutally cut by Red Bull, Montoya firmly believes Helmut Marko doesn’t criticise his drivers to scare them, rather it’s to motivate them.

“The way Helmut works with stuff like this,” he said, “he’s not putting pressure because he wants to fire you but he puts pressure on you to perform. He’s looking to get the most out of you.”

“He’s not patting you on the back and saying ‘you’re the best, you can do it’. No, he’s like ‘get your shit together or you’re out’.”

Read next: Nyck de Vries spotted talking with a former rival team boss