Helmut Marko has insisted that Sergio Perez will remain a Red Bull driver for the F1 2024 season despite a disastrous weekend at the Mexican Grand Prix.
Having won two of the first four races of 2023 in Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan, Perez now finds himself fighting for his F1 future after a dramatic mid-season implosion.
Despite driving the dominant RB19 car, winner of all but one of the 19 races held so far this year, Perez failed to reach Q3 for five consecutive rounds between Monaco and Silverstone and has finished on the podium just four times in the last 14 races.
Helmut Marko: Sergio Perez’s Red Bull seat is safe for F1 2024
Perez’s season slumped to a new low at his home race, where he was outqualified by AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo – viewed as the likeliest candidate to replace him – before crashing out on the opening lap, suffering his second retirement in four races.
Marko himself has been outspoken on the subject of Perez’s lacklustre form, claiming earlier this month that the 33-year-old is in need of “a change of climate and team” in order to get his career back on track.
Speaking after the race in Mexico, however, the Red Bull advisor was adamant that the team will honour the contract they have in place with Perez for next season.
He told Sky Italia: “How many times do I have to repeat this? Checo has a contract for 2024 and that will happen.
“He had a super weekend until the first lap of the race and I am convinced that he would have been on the podium [without the collision].”
Marko, 80, courted controversy after last month’s Italian GP by insinuating that Perez’s Mexican background was partly to blame for his struggles alongside team-mate Max Verstappen in 2023, as well as erroneously describing his driver as South American.
The Austrian apologised to Perez personally ahead of the following round in Singapore, with Perez insistent that the 80-year-old’s comments had been blown out of proportion.
Marko paid tribute to the local fans, who offered a clear show of support to Perez at his home race as his troubled run continued.
He told Sky Germany “They were great! An incredibly sporty crowd and I have rarely experienced such an atmosphere.”
Perez – the most successful Mexican driver in F1 history – joined Red Bull at the start of the 2021 season, with all but one of his six grand prix victories coming in blue.
In the aftermath of his win at the 2022 Monaco GP, Red Bull announced that Perez had signed a two-year contract extension keeping him with the team until the end of 2024.
Red Bull-backed drivers are known to have a clause in their contracts allowing the hierarchy to switch them between the main team and junior outfit AlphaTauri at will, with Daniil Kvyat memorably demoted after just four rounds of the 2016 season to make way for Verstappen.
It is unclear whether a similar mechanism is present in the terms of Perez’s existing deal, which would technically afford Red Bull complete freedom to swap him with Ricciardo.
Paying Perez to walk away – a tactic McLaren employed to drop the underperforming Ricciardo at the end of the 2022 after two largely disappointing seasons – is another option potentially available to Red Bull should they decide to make a change for 2024.