Helmut Marko has yet again cast doubt on Sergio Perez’s future but it seems he could be safe for next season as Red Bull’s long-term target, Lando Norris, isn’t available.
Perez has come under fire this season after a horrendous five-race qualifying streak saw him go from championship contender to facing questions about whether he had the pace to hold onto second place in the standings.
And with that came questions about his future, questions Marko has been all too happy to answer.
Helmut Marko has another go at Sergio Perez
Although Perez has a contract in place for 2024, the driver has had to deal with comments from Marko saying that doesn’t mean he will race for the team.
From “nothing is 100 percent certain in Formula 1” to calling the Mexican driver’s deal a “contractual guarantee” and not a “job” one, the Red Bull motorsport advisor has continued to pile pressure on Perez.
It didn’t stop even after his podium result at the Italian Grand Prix.
“Perez is not consistent, he is not always focused,” GPBlog reports the Red Bull motorsport advisor as having told ServusTV.
And it seems the only reason Perez may retain his Red Bull seat next season is because the team’s apparent target, Norris, is not available.
“Perez has a contract until 2024 and Norris has a contract until 2025, unfortunately, it’s that long,” he said.
“He is definitely a candidate for us. At Toro Rosso, we had already reached an agreement with him at the time, until his manager realised there was an option for a McLaren contract.
“In terms of youth and speed, he would suit us very well.
“Sergio, on the other hand, is already over 30 and is expecting his fourth child. So he also has other interests, so you have to see what happens next.”
Should Red Bull opt not to honour Perez’s contract next season, or not re-sign him after 2024, they’d need a stop-gap between the Mexican driver and Norris as McLaren CEO Zak Brown has made it crystal clear he’s not letting driver leave before 2025.
Marko believes there’s no shortage of drivers who’d want to be in the Red Bull, although they may balk at the thought of partnering with Verstappen.
“On the one hand, the seat in Red Bull is one of the most wanted, but on the other hand, you also have Max Verstappen as an opponent. You then need a very strong personality and also mentality. Perez is the one who has done the best of all drivers in recent years and also won races,” the 80-year-old added.
Norris, though, has already said he would be open to taking the job.
“It’s definitely something I would be open to in the future,” said the Briton. “I think I can happily say Max is probably one of the best drivers ever in the history of Formula 1.
“I never raced against him until I was in Formula 1 but I was always in the category below. In karting, I already knew him reasonably well.
“Back in 2012-2013 was the first time I got to meet him and get to know him, so I’ve been able to witness what he’s doing and I think it’s not just that he’s in a good car and he’s able to perform.
“I think no matter what car he’s in, he’ll be able to perform at a similar level. Maybe with different results but at a similar level and I think at that point it’d be great to work alongside someone like that and, at the same time, see where I can really stand against him.”