Former F1 drivers Gerhard Berger and Ralf Schumacher are at odds over whether Sergio Perez will still be Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate come the 2024 season-opening race in Bahrain.
Perez has gone from championship contender to number two driver this season with the Mexican driver one of the stars of the opening five races only to then lose the plot.
Failing to make it into Q3 from Monaco to Silverstone, the 33-year-old’s title hopes imploded in a wave of qualifying disasters with Red Bull’s Helmut Marko not holding back in his criticism of the driver.
Gerhard Berger: Red Bull will respect the Perez contract
Between that and Daniel Ricciardo’s return to the grid with AlphaTauri, Perez has spent the past few months facing questions about his future with those same questions thrown at his Red Bull bosses.
Marko and Christian Horner, though, have insisted several times that Perez has a contract for 2024 and that if Ricciardo wants a Red Bull seat, he’ll have to wait until the year after that.
Former F1 driver Berger believes Red Bull will honour Perez’s contract.
“Red Bull will respect the Perez contract despite all the rumours from outside. I am quite sure of that,” he told F1-Insider.com.
Although Perez has fallen well behind his team-mate Verstappen in the championship race, his deficit up to 125 points, he is still holding down P2 in the standings which Marko has made clear in his job for this season.
Ralf Schumacher: I think Perez will be replaced next year
Schumacher, though, can’t see that being enough for Red Bull especially when Perez and Verstappen have had a few heated moments over the past two seasons.
“I think Perez will be replaced next year,” said Schumacher, adding that “there are some drivers who are just as good as Sergio, but at the same time would create more harmony in the team.”
Schumacher’s comments are an about-turn on those he made a little less than two months ago when he told Sky Deutschland that he “strongly believes” Perez will “be in the Red Bull next year”.
However, he did go on to say he thought if Alex Albon or Daniel Ricciardo wanted the seat, Perez could be under threat.
“If Alex Albon were free – which he isn’t – or if Ricciardo comes into action now and can show his class, it could perhaps be tight,” he said.
“But he has a contract and therefore I can almost not imagine a separation. But almost nothing is impossible in Formula 1.”
Ricciardo has since returned to racing, replacing Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri with the Honey Badger making it known his end goal is a Red Bull race seat.