Leaving the Lusail circuit with a solitary point scored, Helmut Marko has warned Sergio Perez there are “three relatively good drivers” lining up to replace him.
The 2023 championship has, at least since round five, been a tale of contrasting fortunes for the Red Bull team-mates.
While Max Verstappen has dominated proceedings, the Dutchman retaining the World title for a third season, his team-mate Perez is fighting to keep his Red Bull race seat.
Sergio Perez has a contract but…
Scoring just five points in the last three grands prix, Perez is in the midst of a second slump and it’s one that could cost him second place in the Drivers’ standings.
That does not impress Red Bull motorsport advisor Marko.
“The gap is simply too big at the moment because second place in the World Championship is also at risk now,” he told ORF.
Since his last podium result, a P2 at the Italian Grand Prix, Perez has dropped 24 points to Lewis Hamilton who is now just 30 points adrift with five races remaining.
Should Perez continue to spiral and Hamilton surge, Marko has all but warned that could ultimately cost the Mexican driver his Red Bull race seat.
“In general we want to implement the contractual situation, which lasts until 2024. And that’s entirely up to him now,” he went on to say.
“But then we have three relatively good drivers in AlphaTauri.”
Those three drivers are Daniel Ricciardo, Yuki Tsunoda and Liam Lawson, the trio all contracted to AlphaTauri for the 2024 championship.
However, already Ricciardo and Lawson are being tipped to replace Perez either at the start of the 2024 season or mid-way through the year.
Christian Horner was asked about the possibility of that in Qatar and sidestepped the question, simply vowing to support Perez.
“We’re going to give all the support we possibly can for Checo to find his form,” he insisted. “You guys will beat him up enough, I’m sure, but we really want to see him achieve what we know he’s capable of.”
But he also admitted Red Bull are growing frustrated with Perez in light of his lacklustre performances.
“The frustration is that we know what Checo is capable of doing,” Horner added. “And of course last year and this year he has contributed significantly to the Constructors’ Championship, and I think that we desperately want to find that formula as a team.”