Helmut Marko throws down Sergio Perez gauntlet in ‘fascinating’ Carlos Sainz Red Bull admission

Jamie Woodhouse
Carlos Sainz, Ferrari, 2024 Australian Grand Prix.

Carlos Sainz is reportedly on the Red Bull and Mercedes shortlist

While Carlos Sainz is “fascinating” to Red Bull after his Australian Grand Prix heroics, the team’s senior advisor Helmut Marko says Sergio Perez can eliminate that threat with better one-lap pace.

Sainz is on the lookout for a new home on the Formula 1 grid, following the pre-F1 2024 confirmation that Lewis Hamilton will make the move from Mercedes to take Sainz’s Ferrari seat from 2025.

Better qualifying saves Sergio Perez from Carlos Sainz Red Bull threat

And Sainz so far can do no better in his quest to land the best seat possible, the Spaniard having claimed P3 in the Bahrain season opener behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Perez, while in Australia Sainz dominated on his way to victory upon his return following an appendectomy.

That statement drive has seen him linked with a strong chance of racing for Mercedes, or returning to the Red Bull fold for 2025, with Marko now addressing Sainz’s chances. And for Perez, the brief is quite simple – improve in qualifying, a weak point which has continued into F1 2024, and Red Bull has no reason to consider Sainz.

“Of course, his form is fascinating,” Marko told Laola1 in reference to Sainz.

“But you have to realise that Checo [Perez] delivered three good races this year. The fact that he fell back so much in Melbourne was due to the damaged underbody and tyre degradation.

“His only weakness is in qualifying. If he can improve there, there’s no need to think about it. The atmosphere in the team is very good also as far as he is concerned.”

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As Marko alluded to, there were mitigating circumstances at play in Perez’s disappointing outing at the Australian Grand Prix, as he crossed the line P5 and almost a minute behind Sainz.

When Perez overtook the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso, a visor tear-off got stuck in the floor of Perez’s RB20, causing a loss of downforce, which as Marko explained, also intensified tyre wear.

“As a result, he was no longer able to set the same times as the front runners that he had previously achieved,” said Marko of that unfortunate pick-up for Perez. “The lack of downforce also increased tyre wear.”

Perez is out of contract at Red Bull as it stands come the end of F1 2024, while three-time World Champion team-mate Verstappen has the longest deal of any Formula 1 driver, that keeping him with Red Bull through to 2028.

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